After securing the support of a huge faction of MLAs, rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde has made a list of at least 400 former corporators and a few MPs who are expected to cross-over to his side if a new government is formed.
This is set to be a big jolt to the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, as movement of corporators out of the Thackeray camp would split the party down to the shakha level and pose a challenge for the CM in resurrecting the party.
Sensing this, the Sena was forced to hold meetings at the district level on Thursday in a bid to keep the cadres intact.
In a letter to the CM dated June 22, Gawali had said, “The MLAs of our party are requesting you to take major decision on the Hindutva agenda. These Shiv Sena leaders are staunch Shiv Sainiks. Hence, by understanding their feelings, without taking any action against them, I request you to take the decision for Shiv Sena even if it’s difficult.”
Sources said the Shinde group is trying to get a key MP from the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. Shinde’s son Srikant, a MP from Kalyan, is already with him.
A corporator from Thane said, “There were 64 corporators in Thane city alone and all of them, along with their cadre and even corporator candidates are with Shinde saheb. If we have to choose a side, we will be with Shinde saheb.” With an eye on corporation elections slated to be held in the coming months, Shiv Sena has instructed all its corporators to not to speak to the media on the prevailing crisis.
A Sena functionary said, “The corporators and cadre in Thane, Raigad and Palghar are likely to pledge allegiance to the Shinde camp and the party is aware of it. Hence, necessary precautions are being taken and an effort is being made at the district level to keep all the workers together.”
A shakha pramukh of Raigad district said, “Even if Shinde saheb has not asked us to join them yet, we already support him as he would not only work for the people but also helped the cadre. During the flood last year, Shinde and his cadre had worked tirelessly to help affected people… even the people of Raigad are with him.”
Shinde hails from Thane city and was a leader of the House in the Thane civic body earlier. He is also the guardian minister of Thane.
Naresh Mhaske, who was the mayor of Thane till the House was dissolved, said, “Most corporators in Thane are with Shinde saheb. We don’t want to stay with Uddhav Thackeray. Most corporators of civic bodies like Ulhasnagar, Kalyan Dombivali, Bhiwandi Nizampur, Navi Mumbai, Vasai Virar, Panvel, Pune, Pimpri-Chinc-hwad and Nashik are with Shinde saheb. The public representatives of Palghar, Dahanu, Talasari and Thane districts are with him. It is a matter of a few days.’’
A former BMC corporator from the Sena said, “Most of the voters in my area are Gujaratis and north Indians. If I contest on a Sena ticket, I have no chance. I will have to switch over to the BJP or the Eknath Shinde faction.”
Meanwhile, a meeting of Shiv Sena vibhag pramukhs was held on Thursday evening on the backdrop of the recent developments. The agenda of the meeting was to keep the workers intact and strengthen the organisational structure of the party. The meeting was also attended by Thackeray via video conferencing. He instructed all to work towards keeping the party intact and strengthening its organisational structure.
Apart from senior leaders, the job of keeping flock together in Mumbai has been entrusted to former mayor Kishori Pednekar and Sena leader Vishakha Raut.
Pednekar, who attended the meeting of vibhag pramukhs, said, “The agenda was clear that we have to keep our cadre together. Every 10-12 years, such a situation emerges and we need to focus on strengthening the foundation of our party, which is our cadre – the Shiv Sainiks.”
When contacted, Raut said, “In the next couple of days, we will hold a meeting of our corporators.” She added that she will be with the Sena till her last breath. A key BJP leader claimed that around half of the 18 Lok Sabha MPs from Maharashtra are going to go with Shinde. “Most have been elected due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma and are fearing that they would not elected the next time. Hence, they will go to the Eknath Shinde group.”