Mumbai: In the seven months since last June when a vertical split took place in the Shiv Sena, the Eknath Shinde-led faction of the party has not been able to establish an exhaustive network of shakhas in Mumbai.
But there’s one place where the party has put in maximum efforts in establishing a cadre base — Worli, constituency of Uddhav Thackeray’s son Aaditya Thackeray.
Shakhas, which are administrative units at the lowest level, have traditionally been the nerve centre of Shiv Sena’s grassroots activities.
The party has always run a parallel governance system through its shakhas, noting down people’s grievances about bad roads, unclean toilets, hurdles in availing government services and so on, and trying to resolve them.
The Shinde-led Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena has appointed at least 65 functionaries in Worli and the neighbouring Sewri, both strongholds of the undivided Shiv Sena, and is working towards taking the number of shakhas in Worli to six from the current one by next month, multiple party functionaries told ThePrint.
This is one of the few areas in Mumbai where the party has filled nearly all administrative posts, they said.
“Worli may be Aaditya Thackeray’s constituency, but it was never Aaditya Thackeray’s bastion,” Sheetal Mhatre, spokesperson of the Shinde-led faction, told ThePrint.
“There are so many people willing to join us in Worli, karyakartas who say they hardly ever meet their MLA. We are doubtful about how many times Aaditya Thackeray may have gone and sat inside the shakhas in his constituency,” Mhatre added.
But Ashish Chemburkar, a senior leader from the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) faction from Worli said, “Those who have joined the Shinde camp in Worli are not the real Shiv Sainiks at heart. They are all opportunists. None of our sitting office bearers have joined them.”
He added: “Their (Shinde camp’s) efforts are not going to bear any fruits in Worli.”
In June last year, Shinde led a rebellion of the majority of Shiv Sena MLAs to topple Maharashtra’s Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government, comprising the Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress, and formed a government with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with himself as CM.
This caused a vertical split in the Shiv Sena, with Shinde staking claim on the party’s symbol and name. The case is currently being heard in the Supreme Court and by the Election Commission (EC).
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Focus on Aaditya’s turf
Worli has been a Shiv Sena stronghold for three decades, with the party having won the seat in every election since 1990, except 2009 — when the NCP’s Sachin Ahir had emerged victorious — according to data from the EC. Ahir is now with the Shiv Sena.
As of now, the Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena has just one shakha in the Worli constituency, but the process of setting up five more by the end of next month is underway, a key Worli-based functionary from the party told ThePrint, requesting anonymity.
“We are identifying people to man these shakhas. Most of those who are coming to us have been Shiv Sena karyakartas for years, but under the Thackeray leadership they did not get enough opportunities within the party,” he said.
Earlier this month, the Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena made 65 appointments in Worli and Sewri for different positions, starting from coordinators for assembly constituencies and shakha heads to social media operatives and Yuva Sena members.
“This does not include some of the junior ranks such as upa shakha pramukh (deputy head of shakha), imarat pramukh (representatives for each building that comes under the respective shakha’s jurisdiction) and so on. We are in the process of making these micro-level appointments,” the functionary said.
About a week after making the appointments, the Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena convened a meeting of all functionaries from Worli, Sewri and Byculla, asking them to take up public welfare programmes such as camps for Aadhaar registration, voter registration and skill development to draw more people to the party and ensure that the problems they come with are promptly put up before the government department concerned, party sources said.
Struggle for shakhas across Mumbai
The Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) has a shakha in almost all of Mumbai’s 227 administrative wards. The Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena, on the other hand, has been able to set up only a handful of shakhas across the city, party sources said.
The main reason, they explained, was the uncertainty over the Shinde camp’s claim on the name ‘Shiv Sena’ and its original symbol of the ‘bow and arrow.’
“The ‘bow and arrow’ symbol means a lot in Mumbai. Once we get that, it will be easier to open shakhas and fill posts,” a senior Shinde camp leader said.
According to Mhatre, so far, the party has at least one shakha in each of Mumbai’s 36 assembly constituencies and “about 90 per cent of the total appointments have been made”.
The number of shakhas and the level of activity is more in the assembly segments where the local Shiv Sena MLA joined Shinde’s rebellion, such as Magathane, Kurla, Dadar and Byculla, said Mhatre, who is part of a six-member team appointed by the Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena to oversee organisational work in Mumbai.
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)
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