'Middlemen', Pressure Politics, Ideology: 6 Reasons Behind the Shiv Sena Crisis

Did Shiv Sena's 'soft Hindutva' fail?

4 min read
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The central leadership of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government is in the midst of an impasse, with Shiv Sena leader and Minister Eknath Shinde claiming the support of 35 out of 55 party MLAs.

In this backdrop, the Uddhav Thackeray administration is in troubled waters, as Shinde only needs the support of 37 MLAs to break away from the Sena and shape an independent faction.

But why is the MVA government facing an internal rebellion? And why are over half of the MLAs raising flags of revolt against the Sena leadership?

In a two-page letter addressed to the Shiv Sena's topmost leadership, rebel MLA Sanjay Shirsat articulated reasons behind the mounting discontent in the party.

Shinde retweeted the document on Thursday, 23 June, captioning it as "Views of all MLAs". This is what the letter elucidated.

1. The Interference of 'Middlemen'


Hours after Uddhav Thackeray's sensational departure from the CM residence in Malabar Hills, Shirsat wrote in his letter, "The doors to CM's official residence Varsha opened in the true sense last evening for common Shiv Sainiks. These doors were closed for the past two and a half years for us, even as MLAs."

This was because, the letter claimed, the MLAs had to "constantly appease Uddhav Thackeray's middlemen, who were not even chosen by the people of the state as their representatives."

"The middleman bypass us to chalk out strategies for the Assembly and Rajya Sabha elections, the results of which are before the whole of Maharashtra," the letter read.

2. Ill-Treatment & Humiliation of Sena MLAs

Another grievance highlighted in the letter was the ill-treatment of the MLAs and the humiliation they faced at the hands of Uddhav Thackeray's 'middlemen'.

It said, "For developments related to our constituencies, personal crisis, and other problems, appointments would be granted only after multiple requests, and we would be called to the official bungalow eventually via your (Uddhav's) middlemen, but we would be made to stand at the gate for hours. The middlemen would stop taking our calls once we were there and we would have to leave without meeting you."

The rebel MLA continued, "Saheb, when we were not getting entry to Varsha, Congress-NCP people were meeting you daily, were doing the work for their constituencies, were brandishing letters of having got funds, were doing bhumi pujans and inaugurations...Then, the people in our constituencies would ask us – if the CM is ours, then how are our opponents getting the funds?"

3. Eknath Shinde's Role Amid the Discontent

Shirsat's message went on to stress upon Shinde's unwavering support towards Sena MLAs, suggesting another reason for changing alliances within the party.

"...Eknath Shinde's door was always open to us. The bad condition of our constituencies, funds, bureaucracy, the insults from Congress-NCP... Only Shinde Saheb was listening to our complaints and finding a positive way out," the letter noted.

It added, "In difficult circumstances like these, Eknath Shinde, who is the true follower of Bal Thackeray and Dharamveer Anand Dighe, would come to our rescue. We are standing by him today because his doors were always open for us, and we believe that they will be open in the future."

Besides the reasons cited in the letter, when we trace the roots of the administrative crisis, we can arrive at three more reasons for the revolt that the Thackeray government is now facing.

Roots of the Crisis

The outset of drama unfolding in Maharashtra may be in February 2021, when a sports utility vehicle (SUV) laden with explosives was found near industrialist Mukesh Ambani's residence in Mumbai.

The consequent investigation reached the doorsteps of the MVA government, and culminated in then home minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Anil Deshmukh's resignation.

The sordid tales relating to Deshmukh, ex Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh, and Sachin Waze smeared the face of the MVA government.

Questions were also raised on Shiv Sena and Uddhav Thackeray. In light of this, the reasons that emerged were:


4. BJP's Pressure Politics via Investigative Agencies

Pressure politics of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a major factor in the political drama unfolding in Maharashtra today.

This could be understood by the examples of two ministers, namely Nawab Malik and Anil Deshmukh, both of whom are presently in jail and were disallowed from voting in the recently held Rajya Sabha and MLC elections.

In April 2020, CBI registered a case against NCP leader Anil Deshmukh for financial corruption. He was accused of taking Rs 100 crore as a bribe. Another MVA minister, Nawab Malik, was arrested on 23 February earlier this year, in connection with a money laundering case involving gangster Dawood Ibrahim and his accomplices.

After the chaos, the message to the NCP was clear: You are safe only in the BJP camp and those in rival camps will always be at risk of raids by central agencies.


5. Ideological Differences Within the Party

The ideological differences between the Shiv Sena and the Congress was among the primary apprehensions when the MVA government was formed.

However, slowly Sena came to be viewed as propounding the “soft Hindutva” approach.

As expected, the MVA government ran almost smoothly but ideological rifts within the Shiv Sena were apparent. The workers on the ground of the right-wing party were finding it difficult to maintain their clout with the “soft Hindutva” approach. Here, Eknath Shinde sensed an opportunity for himself.

“We are not going to any party, we will remain in Shiv Sena. We would follow the ideology of Bala Saheb and Anand Dighe sahib and will never compromise for the power. Jai Maharashtra. We are proud Hindus and would never compromise on Hindutva,” Eknath Shinde said.

There were rumors in political circles that Shinde had messaged Uddhav Thackeray, suggesting an alliance with the BJP instead of the Congress and the NCP.

Sources also claim that Shinde was one of the leaders of the Shiv Sena who had opposed the MVA alliance.


6. Vacuum in Maharashtra's Hindutva Politics: Fear of a New Player

After Shiv Sena got together with the Congress and NCP to form the MVA government, Maharashtra was facing a vacuum in the Hindutva politics in the state.

Raj Thackeray tried to fill the vacuum and Shiv Sainiks have been fearing that he might succeed. They also felt that Shiv Sena had somewhere compromised with the ideology to form the government.

(With inputs translated by Arvind Singh.)

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