‘Uddhav did not think Shinde would backstab him’

‘When Uddhav Thackeray went in for surgery, he had presumed that Eknath Shinde would have looked after the Shiv Sena for him during this period.’
‘He did not imagine that Shinde would use this period to backstab him.’

“In hindsight, depending too much on the loyalty factor is a lesson to be learned,” Priyanka Chaturvedi, Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP and the party’s national spokesperson, tells Rediff.com Senior Contributor Rashme Sehgal.

The tide seems to have turned against Uddhav Thackeray. 66 former Shiv Sena corporators in Navi Mumbai have extended their support to Eknath Shinde.

No tide has turned against Uddhav Thackeray despite 40 out of 56 MLAs having rebelled against him.

The fact is that this particular municipal corporation was under Eknath Shinde. He had been given the independence to select candidates. But that does not mean the party cadre has turned against Uddhav Thackeray. They are committed to him.

Both the Uddhav Thackeray and Eknath Shinde camps claim they represent the true Shiv Sena.

The Shiv Sena is a cadre-based party. We have a strong presence on the ground. No one can take that away from us.

The BJP appears to wants to destroy brand Thackeray as they have done with other political dynasts such as the Gandhis and the Abdullahs.

The situation in Maharashtra is completely different.

The Shiv Sena has faced four rebellions in the past.

The quantum in terms of numbers this time around is different. We are a cadre-based party.

The Shiv Sena has a cadre of four lakh (400,000) members. The BJP cannot replace our cadre strength however hard it may try.

If that is the case, why did Eknath Shinde rebel against the Thackeray leadership?

There is no excuse for this rebellion.

His defection is legally untenable under the anti-defection law of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution.

The only plea Shinde can raise is to show his group has two thirds strength in the legislature party and then merge it with the BJP. And this can only happen if there is a vertical split of the party from the panchayat level up to members of Parliament.

The BJP wants to occupy the entire saffron space in Maharashtra.

The BJP has reached a saturation peak.

The only way it can increase numbers was by turning to a former alliance partner. But I must emphasise that Maharashtra will always be a four-cornered fight. And this is true at the district level as well. That is why during elections, this state throws up a fractured mandate.

The Shiv Sena has its own unique model. We have a shakha (unit) in every ward.

Eknath Shinde has gone with 40 MLAs, but they may not get re-elected. There are always ups and downs in politics.

You have to admit that Uddhav Thackeray is not seen in the state as being a grass-root leader.

The BJP has destroyed and diminished all other political parties.

We are in a fight to save our identity.

Each leader has his own style of doing politics.

The Shiv Sena will maintain its strength as it has during the last several years.

One of the accusations levied against Uddhav has been that he has been inaccessible to party workers.

This is what the MLAs who have quit the party are claiming. This is their narrative.

Do not forget that we have had one-and-a-half years of lockdown (due to Covid) and despite that he has emerged as the most popular chief minister during the last 3 years.

Yes, he did go in for surgery. Uddhav Thackeray had then presumed that Shinde would have looked after the Shiv Sena for him during this period.

He did not imagine that he (Shinde) would use this period to backstab him (Uddhav) and engineer a rebellion.

Could one of the reasons for this rebellion be that many of these MLAs had government agencies like the Enforcement Directorate and CBI breathing down their backs?

We are witnessing two models of democracy in our country.

There is the elected model and the enforced model.

We are witness to the ED model being applied in all the non-BJP states where the Enforcement Directorate and other agencies are being used against these state governments.

See the record prior to 2014 and the post-2014 period.

Today we have these central bodies working at the beck and call of the central government. Their main job is to destabilise and bring down Opposition-led state governments.

How many of the defected MLAs had cases against them?

Nineteen to twenty of these MLAs had cases against them.

All cases against them have now been closed or halted.

With the Shinde faction being supported by the party in power at the Centre, the Shiv Sena has a tough fight ahead.

As I said earlier, there have been several attempts to split the party.

Narayan Rane tried to split the party and failed.

Raj Thackeray made a similar attempt and has been left with only one MLA.

Chhagan Bhujwal also tried to do the same, but where is he now? He is presently an MLC.

Our grassroots workers remain committed to the party.

Uddhav Thackeray is starting a mega outreach programme, Samparak Abhiyan, where he will be holding rallies.

Aditya Thackeray is planning to tour every constituency in Mumbai.

With the Shiv Sena having been in a coalition government with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party, it has been accused of having diluted its core Hindutva agenda.

We do not want to be part of the hate politics that the BJP is spouting.

Our Hindutva agenda is to employ the public and especially the youth. Our Hindutva is to provide medical help to every resident of Maharashtra.

We have been praised for how we handled the Covid situation.

Uddhav Thackeray was the first CM who went to Ayodhya to seek the blessings of Ram Lalla.

We were the first party that talked of Dil Me Ram, Haath Mein Kaam (Ram in heart, work in hand).

The BJP has appropriated the Hindutva ideology and turned it into a hate ideology. We practice Hindutva in action.

In retrospect, what went wrong for your party that 40 MLAs quit?

Of course, we need to course correct.

When we came to governance, COVID-19 was our biggest challenge.

We follow the Constitution. We had prepared a common minimum programme to execute.

Sadly, Uddhav had to undergo an operation last November.

He reposed his trust in Eknath Shinde who was the second most important person in the party.

In hindsight, depending too much on the loyalty factor is a lesson to be learned.

How is your party gearing up for the BMC (BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation) election?

It is going to be a direct contest between the BJP and us.

It will be a tough fight. The BJP has a lot of money.

They will also use the central agencies against us.

We have fought this battle earlier and have won.

We are confident we will do well this time around also.

Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com

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