Eknath Shinde’s government completed 100 days in Maharashtra on Friday, a milestone that prompted Uddhav Thackeray, his deposed predecessor and rival pretender to Shiv Sena’s throne, to claim that Shinde is “90 of those days” in Delhi have spent a reference to the BJP, which supports the current dispensation.
To retaliate, the Shinde camp has said that the current CM works among humans, while its predecessor, Thackeray, remained inaccessible. “He (Eknath Shinde) works 18 hours a day in the midst of people. It is not possible that all issues will be resolved in two and a half months…but you (Uddhav) have not even gone to the CM office in two and a half years,” Mahim MLA Sada Sarvankar said, speaking to News18.
LEGACY WARS, INFRA PUSH
Since coming to power, Shinde has announced a number of new decisions, with former Prime Minister Devendra Fadnavis as Deputy CM, and reversed some announced during the Uddhav tenure.
It started by cutting the price of petrol and diesel by Rs.5 and Rs.3 respectively, which is expected to cost the treasury Rs.6,000. A financial stimulus of Rs 50,000 was soon announced for some 14 lakh farmers who regularly repaid their loans.
Last week the government announced that BMC and Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) employees will each receive a bonus of Rs 22,500 ahead of Diwali.
“Those who are good should be encouraged. The development work and the social benefits of our employees must be in balance. The employees and the citizens belong to us,” said Shinde.
On the infrastructure front, it brought back the Metro 3 car shed in Mumbai’s Aarey, a project that Uddhav Thackeray’s government had stuck with. Shinde also put the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail project on the fast track and solicited new bids for the Dharavi regeneration project.
THE FADNAVIS FACTOR
In many of these decisions, the opposition accused Shinde of being the “puppet CM” and claimed that Fadnavis was the true center of power. Fadnavis had originally said he would stay out of government and support Eknath Shinde as CM, but in a surprise move he took an oath alongside Shinde.
The BJP adheres to an equal distribution of power between the alliance partners.
“All decisions are made in conversation, not like in the past, where there was argument and dissatisfaction. Since there is perfect coordination, there can be no question of a remote control. They cite a decision made by the CM and amended by the Deputy CM,” said Bhalchandra Shirsat, spokesman for Maharashtra’s BJP and former Mumbai councillor.
However, analysts believe that the papers issued will reap sooner or later. “Even the bureaucrats are unsure whether this government will last. There is no clear line of thought. There are now two bosses. Who is the super boss? That is also the question,” said Sudhir Suryawanshi, author of Checkmate: How the BJP Maharashtra won and lost.
“All this (political) chaos has a cascading effect on the administration, the decisions. You don’t have a full cabinet. One minister (Devendra Fadnavis) holds more than three districts as a minister of guardianship,” he added.
The next big challenge ahead of Shinde is the upcoming elections for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, which has been controlled by Shiv Sena for the past 25 years. Shinde and Thackeray’s rival Dussehra rallies provided a glimpse into each faction’s support base. Many of those who attended the CM’s rally said they belonged to Thane, Nashik, Nanded, Aurangabad and Jalna. Thackay’s audience was mostly from Mumbai.
In 2017, the Sena won 84 seats out of 227 in the BMC, while the BJP finished a close second with 82 seats. Sena’s then-rivals Congress and NCP won 31 and nine seats, respectively.
Given the changed political dynamics in the state, the BJP has set a target of 150 seats for the upcoming elections but reiterates that it will contest the local polls as the key partner in the alliance with the Shinde faction.
No fewer than 66 companies from Thane, 45 from Kalyan-Dombivali, 30 from Navi Mumbai and 12 from Ulhasnagar have pledged their support to Shinde. In Mumbai, MLAs Sada Sarvankar, Yamini Jadhav, Prakash Surve, Mangesh Kudalkar and Dilip Lande are with the Chief Minister and are expected to have some councilors on their side.
Shinde faction leaders say the CM has started expanding its constituency in Mumbai as well. “He has worked in Thane for 40 years and is now starting to work for Mumbai as well. I don’t think (building a base) will take much time… (earlier) he was discouraged from working and looking at Mumbai,” Sarvankar said.
With about two years to go before the state election, leaders say the faction has already got the ball rolling. “Of course we have to prepare for elections. And why BMC? There is also the Vidhan Sabha election,” said Naresh Mhaske, spokesman for the Shinde camp.
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