Times of India | 4 days ago | 22-06-2022 | 11:19 am
NASHIK: Eknath Shinde is a name to reckon with within Shiv Sena when it comes to organising skills. That is how Shinde could win over MLAs from north, central and southern Maharashtra. A staunch Shiv Sena worker, Shinde climbed the ranks from being a corporator in Thane to a senior minister in Maharashtra. He was the second in command in the BJP-Shiv Sena government in 2014-19 and the point of contact for elected representatives. Shinde’s close ties with then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis also became a talking point in political circles, observers said. However, his connect with people in the Thane region helped him create a base beyond the satellite city of Mumbai. Thane is an important link to districts of northern Maharashtra and has industries and business connections too. Moreover, the Thane city and district have a sizeable number of residents who originally hail from other parts of western Maharashtra. All this has proved helpful for Shinde, political observers said. “Shinde is an extremely good organiser and accessible to leaders cutting across party lines. As a minister, he is known for doing work for MLAs of the opposition as well. He has his own loyalists within Sena in each district. What is of importance is that he, at times, calls up leaders to ask about their well-being, which is essential in politics,” said a top Sena functionary of north Maharashtra. Interestingly, Shinde is also a firefighter and crisis management person for Shiv Sena. Shinde helped Sena wean away 30 BJP corporators of the Jalgaon Municipal Corporation into the party fold during the mayoral polls in March last year. Although BJP has a majority in that civic body, Sena got its mayor. Shinde had apparently coordinated with Jalgaonbased Sena minister Gulabrao Patil to pull off this coup. Under Shinde’s management, all these BJP corporators were kept at a hotel in Thane and brought to Jalgaon on the election day. Some Sena insiders from north Maharashtra said the rebellion by Shinde was sudden, but not surprising. “Many within the party knew that Shinde was unhappy with the party leadership as he was being increasingly marginalised. Instead, other leaders were given more importance. But the leadership was caught unawares by Shinde’s sudden move,” said a top Sena leader. Shiv Sena leader said that there has been a simmering resentment among a large section of the MLAs for different reasons. Shinde, as the group leader, had his ear to the ground. “Many Sena MLAs were peeved that funds for development work in their constituencies were not forthcoming,” claimed Sena insiders. They cited the example of the Sena MLA from Nandgaon in Nashik, Suhas Kande, who had a verbal spat with district guardian minister Chhagan Bhujbal, alleging that unlike Bhujbal’s constituency his constituency was not getting adequate funds for projects. Kande had even taken up this issue with the party high command. “Many Sena MLAs had won the polls defeating either Congress or NCP candidates. Like in case of Kande, he had defeated Bhujbal’s son Pankaj in Nandgaon, who contested on NCP ticket. Ever since the coalition took shape, many of these Sena MLAs were unable to answer how they could have a truck with NCP and Congress leaders whom they had defeated in the polls. They were apparently unhappy with this coalition,” commented a senior Sena leader. Shinde used his connections in western Maharashtra to build his rebellion. Apart from the five current MLAs from western Maharashtra, who are with him, he also has the support of five former MLAs. These MLAs had lost a narrow fight in the 2019 polls, and are currently camping in a hotel in Goa.
A number of MLAs who flew to Guwahati to join the Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena had to pack their bags in great hurry. They were all taken to Surat via Palghar and then flown to Assam capital. In the rush, many of them forgot to carry along necessities such as night clothes, shaving kits and cellphone chargers. Sources in Shinde camp said that the local BJP unit in Guwahati was sent to the market to buy these items, including undergarments, for the MLAs.Naming ideasWith the Shiv Sena alleging that agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) were being used to break the MVA government apart, and that rebel leader Eknath Shinde and leader of opposition Devendra Fadnavis are likely to head a BJP government next, a leader of the Sena has started referring to it as “ED government” with E standing for Eknath and D for Devendra.Staying in touchA number of rebel Shiv Sena MLAs have created their own WhatsApp groups of supporters and workers in their constituencies as a way to communicate with their support base. Post the rebellion when many MLAs went incommunicado after shifting to Guwahati, these WhatsApp groups have become their sounding boards with these leaders receiving brickbats as well as bouquet emojis for their act.‘What a hotel!’Rebel Shiv Sena MLA Shahji Bapu Patil’s gushing description of the surroundings of the place in which he is presently putting up in Guwahati has led to a virtual meme fest on social media. In an audio clip of Patil’s conversation with one of his supporters after the rebellion, the leader is heard exclaiming “Kay Jhadi, Kay Dongar, Kay Hotel” (What trees, what mountains, what a hotel!). The utterances by the first-time MLA from Sangola has led to a number of memes, and a swipe from the Shiv Sena which remarked that Patil can see beautiful trees, mountains and hotels in Maharashtra as well.(Contributed by: Yogesh Naik and Zeeshan Shaikh)
Sharad Pawar said the new alliance by the rebel MLAs hardly held any importance. (FILE)New Delhi: As uncertainty looms over the future of Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government following the rebellion of a majority of Shiv Sena MLAs, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar on Sunday said that his party will support Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray till the last minute."Eknath Shinde and other MLAs were there with the NCP in the government. They didn't have any problems in the last 2.5 years. Why does it happen today only? It's just an excuse. We will support CM Uddhav Thackeray till the last minute," said Mr Pawar.As the power tussle in the western state continued on Sunday, Sharad Pawar also said that the new alliance by the rebel MLAs hardly held any importance."Eknath Shinde and other MLAs who've gone with him (to Guwahati) have said to form a new alliance but NCP and Congress policy are clear to support the coalition government that we had formed. MVA government is there (in Maharashtra) and we want to continue supporting it," he added.The political turbulence in Maharashtra was triggered by the faction war in Shiv Sena after Minister Eknath Shinde flew to Surat with some MLAs and then to Guwahati where he claims of having the support of 38 MLAs of the party, thus achieving the two-thirds majority in the Shiv Sena.Interestingly, the Shinde faction named their group 'Shiv Sena Balasaheb'.The naming of the group after the name of the Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray attracted sharp reactions from the Uddhav faction as the Chief Minister said that those who left the party should not seek votes in the name of the party founder.Eknath Shinde claims to have the support of 38 MLAs of the 56 Shiv Sena legislators, which is more than two-thirds of the party's strength in the 288-member Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. It means that they can either leave and form another political party or merge with another without being disqualified from the state assembly.Meanwhile, rebel Shiv Sena MLA Deepak Kesarkar claimed that their faction has a two-thirds majority while denying merger talks with any party.Notably, Eknath Shinde was unanimously elected as the leader of the faction recently which is revolting against the Uddhav faction.The Uddhav Thackeray faction recently submitted a plea before the Maharashtra Assembly deputy speaker to disqualify 12 rebel MLAs.Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant on Sunday informed that the party has initiated legal action against rebel MLAs and notices have been served as well.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.com(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
The political crisis in Maharashtra has brought focus back on the anti-defection law. By all accounts, the law has failed to shore up the stability of elected governments. Not only have many governments fallen due to defections in recent times, but the defectors have not suffered any cautionary consequences. There are many ways to thwart provisions of the law: the Speaker can sit on the defection pleas for the term of the assembly; the beneficiary party can facilitate accretion of defectors through money and investigative agencies to hit the magic two-thirds threshold. The voters don’t seem to care about punishing the defectors either – 11 out of the 14 defectors who stood for re-election in the 2019 Karnataka bypolls won on the BJP ticket. Some have thus argued that the way forward is to amend the anti-defection law to fill these lacunae by mandating time-bound decisions by the Speaker and disqualifying defectors from standing for the next election as well. These proposed amendments like the original law want to consolidate power without necessarily putting in the requisite politics. They may thus help consolidate the leadership’s intra-party power but the underlying aversion to ongoing politics leaves them vulnerable to bigger external powers.First, it should be obvious that the practice of politics is too wide for any institutional process to fully capture. Politicians are adept at subverting institutional processes for their own ends and there are many possibilities for payoff for defectors outside of elected office alone. Moreover, politics has a rich history of exercise of power by proxy and the disqualified representative may simply choose to have a family member stand in their stead. It thus seems unlikely that these amendments can plug the gap in any substantive manner, especially if the defections have been engineered by the threat of investigative agencies. The anti-defection law and proposed amendments approach the issue of defections from the prism of denying power to the defector, a framing which repeatedly comes up short in the face of a bigger and/or more punitive power. Beleaguered parties may denounce the BJP but in the absence of mobilization of public opinion, these condemnations have at best rhetorical value, moving neither the BJP nor the defectors.Within this framework, if political parties want to resist defections, they must be able to project (imminent) power themselves. At the same time, political parties must address organizational and ideological infirmities which have made them susceptible to mass defections in the first place. There are only about 4000 MLAs in a country with a population of almost 1.4 billion people. However, political parties tasked with representing the aspirations of crores of people are unable to find candidates who take themselves seriously enough to not cross over to political opponents. In fact the bar is so low that the MLAs have to be physically corralled and phones confiscated to ensure alignment with the Party stand. This is not apolitical outrage but has pragmatic organizational value. It is one thing for a few individuals to be susceptible to threats and inducement, another for the organization to be vulnerable to mass defections. Individuals can be faulted in the former but the latter calls for urgent introspective and corrective measures at the level of the leadership.Two measures with both short-term and long-term implications come to mind. First, political parties need ideological clarity and the ability to attract individuals with a sense of purpose and not love for power alone. This ideological depth if reflected in the party organization and its political programs will give members the ability to withstand lean periods of power. Every party has committed individuals; internal party processes must be geared to identify and promote them into leadership positions. This ties into the second issue. Multiple analyses have attributed the political crisis in Maharashtra in part to Shiv Sena’s inability to accommodate the aspirations of its dissident MLAs. The rebel MLAs on their part have spoken of the Chief Minister’s inaccessibility. The MLAs may be opportunistic but there is no question that political parties are failing to create intra-party forums where grievances can be expressed and resolved on an ongoing basis. Internal mechanisms for inner-party democracy – from elections to deliberative forums – are ultimately at the discretion of the party leadership. Scrapping the anti-defection law would provide some institutional leverage to express intra-party dissidence and while it may be more chaotic in the short-term would lead to greater stability and political strength in the long-term.Finally, two fundamental questions. In trying to legislate political affiliation – a key freedom in democracy – political parties are repeatedly giving primacy to legal instead of political battles since these issues inevitably end up in court. This repeated ceding of political power to the judiciary is a serious deviation from the democratic paradigm and must be checked. Second, the anti-defection law has undermined not just the very principle of representation but has also contributed to polarization in our country by making it impossible to construct a majority on any issue outside of party affiliation. Instead of providing stability, the law has undermined our democracy. It is time to scrap the anti-defection law.The writer executive director of the Future of India Foundation
Read |UP bypolls result: BJP candidate Ghanshyam Singh Lodhi wins Rampur Lok Sabha seatWithout Akhilesh Yadav at the helm of its campaign and facing an aggressive campaign by the BJP, the Samajwadi Party (SP) lost the Lok Sabha by-elections in Rampur and Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh that were once considered its strongholds. The Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) strong performance in Azamgarh heavily damaged the SP.By winning both the bypolls, the BJP on Sunday strengthened its already-dominant position in the state ahead of the urban local body elections that are due later this year and the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The ruling party also dealt a crippling blow to the Opposition party whose tally in the Lok Sabha is now down to three. These losses will not only be a blow to the morale of the workers of the Akhilesh Yadav-led party but also weaken it ahead of next month’s presidential elections in which the party is backing the Opposition’s consensus candidate.The elections are also likely to raise questions about Akhilesh Yadav’s absence from campaigning in both Azamgarh, where his cousin Dharmendra Yadav was the contestant, and in Rampur the once bastion of senior SP leader Azam Khan now in the hands of the BJP. The veteran leader is also likely to face questions about his position in the party following this defeat as he had to negotiate hard with Akhilesh to give the candidature to his longtime associate Asim Raja.Though the BSP could not win Azamgarh — it did not contest Rampur — its candidate Shah Alam, popularly known as Guddu Jamali, got 2.66 lakh votes and effectively ended Dharmendra Yadav’s chances. Jamali is a two-time MLA from the constituency’s Mubarakpur Assembly segment. Reacting to the results, BSP president Mayawati said they had “shown that only the BSP has theoretical and ground strength to defeat the BJP”. She added the party would keep reaching out to Muslims “for a much-awaited political change in the state”.Like Akhilesh, Mayawati too stayed away from the campaign. For the BJP, putting its entire might into the campaign paid off as Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and almost his entire Cabinet canvassed for the party’s candidates in both seats on the plank of development and welfare benefits.AzamgarhThe SP won the constituency in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections despite a wave of support across the country for the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Even in the state elections earlier this year, it won all the five Assembly segments in Azamgarh. But this time, the parliamentary constituency fell to the BJP as its candidate Dinesh Lal Yadav “Nirahua”, who lost to Akhilesh in 2019, ended up being second-time lucky.Given the dominance of Dalits, Muslims, and Yadavs in the 18-lakh-strong electorate of Azamgarh, the SP and the BSP were considered to be the main contenders in Azamgarh. But Nirahua, who drew large crowds of youth during campaigning, managed to take advantage of the Mayawati-led party eroding away the SP’s support base. The popular Bhojpuri actor-singer defeated Dharmendra Yadav by 8,679 votes and with a vote share of 34.39 per cent, slightly lower than the 35.1 per cent he had polled last time. The SP’s vote share slid from 60.36 per cent to 33.44 per cent, illustrating the damage caused by the BSP.Even though Azamgarh was an important seat for the party and it was crucial for it to give the impression of turning things around after the Assembly elections setback earlier this year, the SP leadership did not seem to make any concerted effort to consolidate Muslim and Yadav votes. Akhilesh also not turning up for the campaign did not help matters. The SP president had faced criticism during the initial period of the Covid-19 pandemic for not visiting the constituency.The party deployed its Muslim MLAs from other districts such as Ghazipur, Rampur, and even Maharashtra to campaign in the constituency. But a local like Jamali gained more traction with the locals, fuelling an insider versus outsider talk in the run-up to election day. The SP’s alleged silence on Muslim issues also seemed to not go down well with Muslim voters.RampurConsidered the citadel of Azam Khan, the SP left campaigning in Rampur to the veteran leader and his supporters, hoping they would ensure the party’s victory. But the BJP, which won two of the five Assembly segments in the state polls earlier this year, did not throw in the towel and mobilised its entire top leadership to storm Azam’s bastion.At least 16 state ministers reached out to voters in Rampur, where almost 52 per cent of voters are Muslims. But a low turnout of 41.39 per cent (63.19 per cent had voted in the 2019 polls when Azam was elected) aided the ruling party as it managed to increase its vote share from 42.33 per cent in 2019 to 51.96 per cent. The SP’s vote share meanwhile declined from 52.69 per cent to 46 per cent. After polling on Thursday, Azam and other leaders accused the police of intimidating voters and not allowing Muslim voters to move out to cast their votes.Some locals claimed that a section of Muslim voters also did not show interest in the bypoll as the candidate was not from Azam’s family. The veteran leader campaigned for Raja and tried to garner sympathy by narrating the hardships he and his family faced in prison. But the strategy failed in front of the BJP juggernaut and the SP leader could not benefit from the decision of the BSP and the Congress to not contest the election. With the BSP not in the fray, political observers said several Dalit voters chose the BJP. This helped the ruling party wrest control of the constituency.Commenting on the loss, an SP leader said, “The leadership now needs to review its political strategy of reaching out to different sections of voters and it also needs to revamp its team of counsellors.”
The rebels were taken to Guwahati as "prisoners", said Aaditya Thackeray. (FILE)Mumbai: Slamming the dissident Shiv Sena MLAs for having "monstrous ambitions", minister Aaditya Thackeray on Sunday said even if all the party legislators turn rebels, victory will always be of the party.Addressing the Sena workers in Mumbai for the second consecutive day, he also said that doors of the state and party are closed for the rebels MLAs."Contest elections again, we will ensure you are defeated," the 30-year-old son of Sena president and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said.Without naming the BJP, he said he felt ashamed that a party, which is in power at the Centre and Assam, have taken the MLAs from another ruling party from a different state and kept them in the north eastern state that is reeling under floods.The rebels were taken to Guwahati as "prisoners". About 12 to 14 MLAs are still in touch with us, Mr Thackeray said."When these MLAs come to the state assembly, they should have the guts to see in our eyes and tell us what we have not done for them. The ambitions of these people are monstrous," the minister for environment and tourism said.Sufficient development funds had been provided to all the legislators, he said, adding that the Shiv Sena has become the voice of the common people.Majority of party MLAs have sided with rebel party minister Eknath Shinde and they are currently camping at Guwahati in Assam, a BJP-ruled state. Mr Shinde and his group have claimed that they are the "real Shiv Sena". The rebel group said it enjoys a two-thirds majority in the legislature party and will prove its strength in the House. The dissidents have named their group as "Shiv Sena (Balasaheb)"."There was a lot of respect for Eknath Shinde in Shiv Sena. Only in May he had been asked whether he wants to become the chief minister...I pity him, I am not angry. He could have rebelled in Thane or Mumbai and spelled out his ambitions instead of running away to Surat and then to Guwahati," Thackeray said.Addressing the party workers on Saturday, Aaditya had given a subtle warning to the party rebels, saying that the road from Mumbai airport to Vidhan Bhavan, the state legislature complex, goes via Worli.Worli, traditionally a Shiv Sena bastion in Mumbai, is the assembly constituency represented by Aaditya Thackeray."The road from the airport to the Vidhan Bhavan passes via Worli. It's good that the rebels left (Shiv Sena). There is no room for traitors in the party," he had said. Aaditya has started holding meetings with the party workers and office-bearers from Saturday, which is being seen as a move to prevent any erosion of the cadre loyal to the Thackerays.The Mumbai civic polls are expected to be held later this year and the Shiv Sena, which has been ruling Asia's largest civic body for nearly three decades, is striving to retain its hold over it.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comThe Maharashtra legislature secretariat had on Saturday issued 'summons' to 16 of the rebel Shiv Sena MLAs, including Shinde, seeking written replies by the evening of June 27 to the complaints seeking their disqualification.(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)