Updated: March 31, 2021 9:55:32 pm
In a setback to Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday appointed Sena MP Arvind Sawant as the party’s chief spokesperson along with Raut. So far, Raut was the only chief spokesperson since September while Sawant was the party’s spokesperson for the past few years.
The move is seen as an attempt by Thackeray and state Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray to downsize Raut in the backdrop of his statements in the last two weeks: his statement that NCP chief Sharad Pawar should head UPA did not go down well with the Congress while his criticism of Home Minister Anil Deshmukh in a column in Saamana angered the NCP.
Sources in the Sena said Raut went beyond his brief when he put out a tweet denying a secret meeting between Pawar and Amit Shah in Ahmedabad. Also, his criticism of the government over the Ambani terror scare case, former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh’s allegations and subsequent political developments seemed to be aimed at Uddhav, and it was not right, a leader said.
“Sawant has been named chief spokesperson to keep a check on Raut. But it is impossible to ignore Raut, who played a crucial role in the formation of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government led by Thackeray and has a good network across parties,” added the leader.
Sawant, the South Mumbai MP, quit as a Union minister in November 2019 after the Sena decided to break ties with the BJP for not sharing the CM’s post. Sawant, known to be close to Matoshree, was also recently appointed president of the party’s labour wing, Bhartiya Kamgar Sena.
Besides Raut and Sawant, Thackeray has also named 14 others as spokespersons, including Transport Minister Anil Parab, MP Priyanka Chaturvedi, legislator Pratap Sarnaik among others. With an eye on the Mumbai civic polls in early 2022, the Sena chief has also named Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar, former mayor Shubha Raul, corporator Shetal Mhatre, Sachin Ahir as party spokespersons.
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