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Which is the real Shiv Sena? Thackeray & Shinde camps woo cadre in battle for ‘bow & arrow’

Eknath Shinde has been addressing Shiv Sena workers from across Maharashtra while Uddhav Thackeray is holding regular meetings with cadres at party HQ in Mumbai's Dadar.

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Mumbai: A month after the split in the Shiv Sena, the rival Uddhav Thackeray and Eknath Shinde camps are in a race to secure support from across the party’s ranks, with their eyes on its symbol — the bow and arrow.

To this end, the two sides have been wooing party workers and the lowest rung of Sena functionaries.

Thackeray, who has often battled criticism from party workers for not interacting enough with them or spending enough time at Sena Bhavan, the party’s HQ in Mumbai, has hit the ground running with son Aaditya.

The Thackerays have been reaching out to Sena workers and functionaries in a bid to convince them that those part of the Shinde faction are “pawns” in the BJP’s alleged ploy to finish the Shiv Sena.

In a bid to stop the exodus, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena has also wielded another weapon in its armoury — letters ousting party leaders who extend support to Shinde.

Meanwhile, Eknath Shinde is addressing large gatherings of karyakartas (workers), telling them not to fear such letters because his faction is the “real Shiv Sena”, leaders supporting the Maharashtra Chief Minister told ThePrint.

Rebel Sena MLAs have been bringing party members from their constituencies all the way to Mumbai to get them some face time with Shinde. During these interactions, Shinde has been explaining his decision to walk out of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, while reiterating his commitment to the development of their respective constituencies.

Shinde has also been posting photographs of his interactions with the cadres on social media with the hashtag “Real Shiv Sena”.

Having secured the support of 12 of the Sena’s 19 MPs in the Lok Sabha, as well as senior party leaders Anandrao Adsul and Ramdas Kadam, the Shinde-led faction approached the Election Commission of India Tuesday evening to stake claim to the party symbol.

Also Read: Uddhav ‘wanted patch-up with BJP, said he spoke to Modi about alliance in 2021’ — rebel Sena MP

‘Uprising, not defiance’

A senior MLA from the Shinde camp told ThePrint that there is “some restlessness among karyakartas”.

“Those working on the ground don’t understand the problems at the higher levels. They didn’t understand why we were finding it difficult to meet our own party president who was the CM,” he added. “So, initially not everyone fully understood why we did what we did. We are explaining it to them.”

A second MLA from the Shinde camp said the extent of the rebellion is helping party workers see that this is an “uprising, and not defiance”.

“If one or two MLAs had done this, people would have thought otherwise. But when 40 MLAs move away, party workers can also see that there is a real issue. Traitors have to hide their faces. Here, many of us were welcomed with rallies and garlands,” he added.

Since their return to their respective constituencies after the rebellion, rebel Sena MLAs have held several rallies and meetings with their karyakartas and constituents, explaining the basis for their displeasure with the MVA and certain leaders from the Thackeray camp.

On 21 June, a group of Sena MLAs led by Shinde rebelled against Uddhav Thackeray, causing the fall of the MVA government. A tripartite coalition, the MVA comprised the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress.

The Shinde camp, with the support of 40 of Sena’s 55 MLAs, then joined hands with the BJP, with Eknath Shinde assuming the office of the Chief Minister and Devendra Fadnavis the office of Deputy CM.

Shinde’s show of strength

On Sunday, Shinde addressed a gathering of party workers from MLA Kishor Appa Patil’s constituency in Jalgaon district, at Mumbai’s Yashwantrao Chavan Centre. During the interaction, he promised that nothing will impede development work in the constituencies of MLAs who took his cue and walked out of the MVA government.

Attending a similar gathering of karyakartas organised by Kurla MLA Mangesh Kudalkar in Mumbai last week, Shinde said the “uprising” was not for selfish reasons, but to deliver justice to disillusioned MLAs. The chief minister even said that he would ensure the re-election of every single MLA who extended support to him.

Aurangabad West MLA Sanjay Shirsat and Sillod MLA Abdul Sattar also organised separate gatherings at Ravindra Natya Mandir in Mumbai last week. Here, too, Shinde assured the cadre that he would assist MLAs to implement development works in their constituencies.

In another show of strength, the Shinde-led faction dissolved the Shiv Sena’s national executive earlier this week and formed its own with Ekanth Shinde as “chief leader”. 

According to the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968, the EC can rule in favour of a party’s breakaway faction and allow it to use the party symbol only after taking into account “all the available facts and circumstances of the case and hearing such representatives of the sections or groups and other persons as desire to be heard”. 

The EC can also issue a ruling which is neither in favour of the parent party nor the breakaway faction. “The decision of the commission shall be binding on all such rivals or groups,” the order says.

Thackeray at Sena HQ, son on tour of shakhas

Senior Sena functionary Ravindra Mirlekar said leaders from the Shinde camp “are threatening party workers to get them to back them”.

“But we have seen many such rebellions. Agreed, that this one is a tougher setback, but there is nothing that the Shiv Sena cannot bounce back from,” he added.

“We are connecting directly with people on the ground, those who make or break the public representatives. When it is time for elections, all the rebels will fall flat on their faces,” he said.

Leaders from the Thackeray camp said that the former chief minister has been meeting different groups of party workers on a daily basis either at his residence, Matoshree, or at the Shiv Sena Bhavan in Mumbai’s Dadar where he now sits at least three days a week.

In a meeting with members of the Sena’s traders unit Tuesday, Uddhav Thackeray cautioned them that the rebellion by Shinde was part of the BJP’s “plot to kill the Shiv Sena”.

Prior to that, he met Shiv Sena district heads from across Maharashtra and asked them to broaden the party’s presence on the ground by recruiting as many workers as possible. 

Thackeray has also asked party functionaries to submit signed affidavits pledging their support to the Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, which he said could help if there is an all-out battle over which faction is the ‘real Shiv Sena’.

Meanwhile, Aaditya Thackeray is visiting one Shiv Sena shakha a day, telling workers that they are the Sena’s real strength and that those who sided with Shinde are “traitors”. Shakhas are the lowest administrative unit within the Sena’s organisational structure.

The Thackeray scion will also begin a state-wide tour of Maharashtra under the banner ‘Shiv Samvad Yatra’. In the first phase of this tour, from 21 July to 23 July, Aaditya will hold rallies in Bhiwandi, Nashik, Dindori, Aurangabad and Shirdi.

A leader from the Thackeray camp said Uddhav Thackeray, who is still recovering from the spine surgery he underwent in November last year, will also begin a tour of the state once the monsoon subsides.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: Thane’s Thackeray, Balasaheb’s ‘rival’ — who is Anand Dighe, Maharashtra CM Shinde’s mentor


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