SENIOR SHIV Sena leader and Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde, who was deemed to be the most powerful Sena minister in the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government, is now finding himself slowly sidelined under the Uddhav Thackeray-led administration.
Over the past two weeks, Shinde has been kept away from most of the important decisions that have been taken pertaining to his department.
On Tuesday, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar decided to name the Eastern Freeway after former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh in a meeting of bureaucrats. The next day, the state Cabinet, while approving the increased cost of the Babasaheb Ambedkar Memorial, decided to make the social justice department the monitoring agency for the project being executed by Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), which comes under the urban development department.
Sources in Sena said that the government is also mulling to carve out a new department for infrastructure projects like Metro and others. However, a final decision is yet to be taken, said a senior leader.
All these have not gone down well with Shinde. Both decisions — naming of Eastern Freeway and Ambedkar Memorial — were related to Shinde’s department, but he was nowhere in the picture, sources added.
After the Assembly poll results were announced last October, Shinde was elected as the leader of Sena’s legislative wing. After Uddhav took oath as chief minister, Shinde was of the six other ministers who had taken oath as Cabinet ministers. Shinde in fact had taken took oath immediately after Uddhav. While he was initially given the Home portfolio, it later went to NCP’s Anil Deshmukh.
Shinde was the go to guy in the previous BJP-Shiv Sena government for party workers and MLAs. He was given the portfolio of public works department (public undertaking) and the additional responsibility of public health in January, last year. Shinde had emerged as the “only mass leader” in the party over the past few years and enjoyed the support of more than two dozen Sena legislators.
A section of Sena leaders, however, saw his rising popularity as a threat, said party insiders. “Since 2014, the BJP had threatened to break the Sena keeping an eye on the Shinde camp,” a Sena leader said, adding that Shinde had good equations with Fadnavis.
With the Thackeray father-son duo now a part of the government, an earnest attempt seems to have been initiated to clip Shinde’s wings, said sources.
Shinde, who had earlier this week claimed that there was no question about him being unhappy in the Sena, was not available for comment.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines