Eknath Shinde’s meteoric rise from driving an auto-rickshaw to becoming the Chief Minister of Maharashtra is a story not meant for the faint-hearted. Born in an impoverished family in the Satara district, Shinde left school at an early age to do several odd jobs in order to make ends meet. From being an auto-rickshaw driver to a factory worker, Shinde understood the value of perseverance from the beginning. It is probably this value that helped him rise up the ranks from the grassroots, and eventually lead a successful rebellion against Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
Considered as a Shiv Sena strongman who took care of the party’s finances, Shinde managed to claim the support of 39 legislators from the party, thus reducing the Uddhav Thackeray government to a minority in the state. This is not the first time the Sena camp has witnessed dissent, but a revolt of such magnitude had caught many including Uddhav off guard. When party founder Balasaheb Thackeray was alive, Chhagan Bhujbal and Balasaheb’s nephew Raj Thackeray had revolted and split from the party. Even former Maharashtra CM Narayan Rane was expelled in 2005 from the party after he fell out with Uddhav Thackeray.
Shinde is known for his soft-spoken nature and his accessibility to other leaders of the party. Several Sena leaders had claimed that the Thackerays were unreachable, which eventually turned into a sore point.
Fifty eight-year-old Shinde belongs to the Maratha community and his native village is in Satara district. Incidentally, the region gave Maharashtra its first Chief Minister in Yashwantrao Chavan.
Shinde’s stint with Sena dates back to the eighties when he became a close aide with the then Thane party unit chief Anand Dighe. Dighe played a crucial role in developing the party’s dominance in the Thane region. After Dighe’s death in 2001, Shinde inherited his legacy, and thus grew into a prominent face in Thane. After filling in Dighe’s shoes as the Thane Shiv Sena president, Shinde won the MLA elections from the Kopri-Pachpakhadi seat.
Shinde, after breaking away from the Uddhav camp, blamed the Sena for moving away from “Balasaheb and Anand Dighe’s Hindutva” while entering into an “unnatural alliance” with NCP and Congress under the leadership of Uddhav Thackeray.