A multi-pronged attack upon the Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray (UBT) Shiv Sena is the political gambit being pursued by the ruling three-party alliance government in Maharashtra in a bid to deflect negative public sentiment after the respective splits engineered in the undivided Shiv Sena (in June 2022) and now, in the NCP in (June 2023). The political objective of the strategy is to drive a wedge between the UBT Sena and Sharad Pawar’s faction of the NCP.
A Sharad Pawar loyalist and one of the 16 MLAs who still stands with his mentor today is MLA from Katol Anil Deshkukh who told The Statesman, “It does not matter what number of MLAs have broken out of the party today. What will matter is the next six to eight months. Sharad Pawar has commenced his political tour of each and every district of Maharashtra.”
Deshmukh added, “Of the Eknath Shinde (Shiv Sena) rebels who number 40, only two or three will be able to get re-elected. The Damocles’ sword of disqualification still hangs over the 16 MLAs, including (CM) Eknath Shinde himself. 2024 will be just like 2019 when Pawar Saheb got 54 of us MLAs elected single-handedly. It will be a clean sweep this time around.”
UBT Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray, who had commenced his political public outreach calendar over the last year, addressed a public rally in the Jalgaon district on Sunday where he specifically targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi by demanding the old pension scheme and citing unprecedented violence in Manipur “Was the Mani (read link) of Manipur being broken from India even as the Prime Minister prioritized his visit to the USA? Similarly, the Prime Minister asked BJP leaders in Karnataka to invoke blessings from Bajrangbali (lord Hanuman) for the elections but received a resounding defeat. On the other hand, Maa Jagdamba has blessed us with hundreds and lakhs of hands as evident from this mammoth meeting in Jalgaon (in Vidarbha) to defeat the Khokesurs (recipients of Rs 50 crore) through the power of votes.”
Thackeray also wondered how the sitting MP from the region Bhawana Gawli, who was being actively investigated for corruption, suddenly turned clean after she bound the Prime Minister during the festival of Raksha Bandhan by tying him a Raakhee.
Similarly, Sharad Pawar chose Yeola in Nashik district to launch his public outreach after his nephew Ajit Pawar broke away with 40 odd MLAs out of a total of 53 that the NCP Chief could boast about in Maharashtra till the Sunday before last. Pawar limited his attention to Maharashtra and breakaway MLA Chaggan Bhujbal (who represents the Yeola assembly constituency) in particular while apologising to the people for having imposed him upon them. Pawar senior also targeted Rajya Sabha MP Praful Patel, who he claimed was bestowed the Union Ministership with the Civil Aviation portfolio back in 2004 at the cost of giving a berth to his own daughter and Lok Sabha MP Supriya Sule.
Newly inducted minister in the Eknath Shinde-led government Chaggan Bhujbal of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) from the Ajit Pawar faction quickly launched a broadside attack on his former NCP chief Sharad Pawar. Bhujbal was smarting after Sharad Pawar launched into his statewide campaigning with a public rally from the Yeola constituency in Nasik that he has represented four times on the trot since 2004.
Bhujbal has alleged that Pawar senior had actually conspired against the undivided Shiv Sena party thrice since 2014. He says, “First this was done in 2014 by Pawar (senior) who drove a wedge between the Shiv Sena and BJP by offering outside support to the BJP government in Maharashtra. Then again in 2017, all the 54 NCP MLAs signed a resolution to ally with the BJP to form a government in Maharashtra which again did not happen as Pawar senior insisted that the Shiv Sena should be kept out of the government which the BJP declined. This could have also prompted Ajit Pawar (in November 2019) to form a government, albeit short-lived (76 hours) with the BJP. Then we formed the government with the Shiv Sena (November 2019).”