Call it a surprise or a masterstroke, the BJP, with its decision to elevate rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde — and not Devendra Fadnavis — as chief minister, has changed the optics game in Maharashtra.
With its subtle support to the Shinde camp — whether in Mumbai where the saffron party said it would “wait and watch” or Guwahati where the rebel MLAs were holed up as the struggle for the chief minister’s crown continued — the BJP has made it clear that the reason for bringing about this coup was not the greed for power.
This became especially crucial in the context of Fadnavis’ old statement “Mi Punha Yein” (I will come back again) doing the rounds on social media. The 2019 statement harks back to the time when Fadnavis was forced to make an unceremonious exit engineered by Ajit Pawar which saw his government last for a mere 80 hours before Uddhav Thackeray took over as chief minister.
With Shinde’s elevation, the narrative BJP will play up is that it sacrificed power for ‘Hindutva’. Delinking Sena from the Thackerays, the saffron party will project that an ordinary Shiv Sainik became the chief minister, fulfilling the dream of Balasaheb Thackeray which even his son could not guarantee. The party, thus, shall present itself as the “true inheritor” of Sena’s Hindutva ideology.
The move has also made it difficult for Uddhav Thackeray to bring his clan together, given that the outgoing chief minister faced a revolt “from his own”.
The stunning twist to the Maharashtra saga will now see another element, with Fadnavis accepting the BJP’s “directive” to join the government after initially denying the post. This comes after BJP chief JP Nadda “personally requested” Fadnavis to be the deputy chief minister in the Shinde Sarkar.
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