Maharashtra: Shinde government facing political crisis

Two of the most controversial MLAs in Maharashtra now supporting the Eknath Shinde government are likely to bring down his government

Eknath Shinde (File image)
Eknath Shinde (File image)

Sujata Anandan

Two of the most controversial MLAs in Maharashtra now supporting the Eknath Shinde government are likely to bring down his government. A war of words has broken out between independent MLA Ravi Rana and president of the Prahar Janshakti Party Bachchu Kadu over the spoils of war with the former alleging that the latter had taken Rs 50 crore from Shinde to switch over from Uddhav Thackeray. Kadu has threatened to walk out of the government with eight MLAs who are disgruntled at not being given enough importance by the new government.

Amid random statements by both Shinde and deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis hinting at a cabinet expansion to stem their restlessness, Ravi Rana who, along with his wife Navneet Rana, is facing a case for trying to disrupt peace by chanting Hanuman Chalisa outside the then chief minister Uddhav Thackeray’s home during  Ramzan this year, has alleged that Kadu took a bribe of Rs 50 crore to go to Guwahati in Assam and break up the Maha Vikas Aghadi government.

A furious Kadu has said he was not alone to go Guwahati. So if he was bribed with Rs 50 crore, everyone, including Rana,  received the same amount to support the new government. Shinde and Fadnavis should compel him to apologise or else he would separate from the government.

Both Kadu and Rana hail from Amravati and while this is clearly a turf war between the two, it has also brought into question Fadnavis’ wisdom in promoting two independents from the same constituency, proving the truth of the adage that there cannot be two swords placed in the same scabbard. Kadu was a minister in the MVA government and has not been accommodated in their cabinet by Shinde and Fadnavis. He is a militant leader roughing up government officials, enforcing his own edicts and generally acting as Robinhood across Maharashtra. For those acts, he was even sent to jail for two months while he was minister for disturbing the peace.  Shinde has been doing his best to pacify both Kadu and Rana but while Rana has said he would go by Fadnavis’s  diktat, Kadu is less conciliatory.

If Rana does not take back his words by November 1, Kadu has not only threatened a suit against him but also said both Shinde and Fadnavis will be made respondents to answer the money allegations hurled on them, for if he took the money, fifty other people also did so. And so who offered them the money?, Kadu has questioned.

That has sent both Shinde and Fadnavis reeling,  putting them between a rock and a hard place. The allegation has been pounced upon by the Shiv Sena (UBT) as proof that their MLAs were bribed to pull support from the MVA government.

Aaditya Thackeray, the son of the former chief minister, has also not been  beyond fueling some trouble by saying that at least ten Shinde camp MLAs are in touch with his father as they are highly discontented with the Shinde administration. Some of them are upset that they have not been accommodated in the cabinet, others are simply disenchanted at Shinde’s inability to deliver on his promise - that the Thackerays would be finished and the Shiv Sena would belong to them.

In view of the fact that the coveted bow and arrow symbol has been frozen, the disadvantages are many for the Shinde camp, particularly as the Shivaji Park rally by both leaders proved the sympathy could well be with Uddhav Thackeray. Shinde has been trying to pacify the unhappy MLAs in his camp with Ganpati and Diwali visits to their homes but clearly that is no consolation to anybody given his rank failure to enforce peace between Rana and Kadu.

Waiting in the wings for a similar opportunity to rebel is Narayan Rane whose son Nitesh too was not accommodated in the cabinet despite having done his best to provoke the previous regime and needle its ministers, including Aaditya Thackeray and Nawab Malik. Rane is said to have also played a key role in herding  MLAs to the Shinde camp based on his previous connections within the party. Rane was always hopeful he would be made chief minister again (he was chief minister for a few months in 1999). But Shinde’s ascension to that office has given birth to another competitor and rubbed his nose out of joint again. He too is said to have the confidence of about a half dozen MLAs in the Shinde camp and is stated to be driving a hard bargain to accommodate his son as deputy chief minister, something that Fadnavis is unlikely to relish.

There’s thus more than one serpent in the ‘ED’ paradise and Shinde is simply not up to crushing the serpents and drawing out their potential to poison his support base.

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