The Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra is facing its worst-ever crisis since coming into existence in 2019 after Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde opened revolt against his party, eventually pushing into survival crisis the Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA which is just half-away through its tenure.
Claiming support of 46 MLAs including six ministers, Shinde is set to join the ranks of leaders like Chhagan Bhujbal and Narayan Rane who had earlier managed to engineer a split in the Sena.
The 58-year-old, touted as the most powerful leader in the party after the Thackerays, is responsible for strengthening the party in Thane and several other parts of the state as well.
He is not only known to be professional and calm but is also a favourite among party colleagues for being easily accessible, when compared to the Thackerays.
Born in 1964, Shinde hails from the Maratha community and is said to have left education early to make a living. His family, which originally belongs to Satara district, moved to Thane in the 70s.
Shinde spent most of his childhood doing odd jobs, at places such as a beer brewery and fishery, apart from his stint as an auto-rickshaw driver to make ends meet.
While Shinde’s association with Sena began in the 80s, he soon became a close associate of Anand Dighe, the then Thane district Sena president who played a pivotal role in making the party a dominant force in the region.
After Dighe’s death in August 2001, Shinde filled the void left in the Shiv Sena’s Thane unit. In 2004, he became an MLA, winning the Kopri-Pachpakhadi seat, and has represented the constituency for four consecutive terms.
Shinde’s decision to rebel, in which he cited “Balasaheb and Anand Dighe’s Hindutva”, is believed to have been sparked by his conviction that Sena’s core vote bank of Hindus and Maharashtrians had eroded following the tie-up with the Congress and NCP.
He was also reportedly unhappy with Shiv Sena’s decision to override his suggestion that the party contest the Thane Municipal Corporation polls alone.
Shinde was categorically told that the party would contest in alliance with the NCP and Congress, with Shinde reportedly taking affront to both the content and the manner of the communication, via leaders including Sanjay Raut.