By electing Shinde its House leader, Sena sends out strong message to BJP

Mumbai: A day after Devendra Fadnavis was elected as its leader of the House by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Shiv Sena sprang a surprise by electing Eknath Shinde as its legislature party leader. Shinde's selection as leader is a clear message to the BJP that the Sena is ready to lock horns with the BJP over power-seat sharing and the chief minister's post.

All the newly 56 elected MLAs unanimously elected Shinde as their leader at a meeting held at the Sena Bhavan on Thursday. Sunil Prabhu was elected chief whip of the party in the Maharashtra legislature.

Shinde is known for his shrewdness and political brilliance. He started his political career as a Sena worker and has worked hard to attain this position. He wields considerable clout in Thane and Palghar districts. He is considered a mass leader who can mobilise funds and muscle power for the party.

Shinde was groomed by the late stalwart Sena leader from Thane, Anand Dighe. During the 2019 Lok Sabha election, his strategy helped the party win in Palghar, cornering the party's arch rival in Palghar - the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi led by Hitendra Thakur. He is aggressive and an excellent political manager. Apart from this, he is also a leader from the Maratha community in Western Maharashtra.

As the BJP has elected a Brahmin, Fadnavis, as its leader, the selection of a Maratha leader from the Sena is a message to the BJP and voters who favour non-Brahmin leadership. If the Sena joins hands with the BJP, settling for the post of the deputy chief minister, Shinde is most likely to occupy that position.

The choice of Shinde is somewhat surprising, though. It was the name of Subhash Desai that was being mentioned. But elected legislators were strongly opposed to Desai. In 2014, Shinde was selected as the leader of the opposition by the Sena. He held the position for about a month, until the Sena joined the government. The new MLA from Worli and Yuva Sena chief, Aaditya Thackeray, had proposed the name of Shinde and this was seconded by several Sena legislators.

Shinde, a fourth-time MLA from the Kopri-Panchpakhai constituency of Thane district, is also the cabinet minister for public health and family welfare in the outgoing state government.

Sena will not bend: Shinde

Speaking on the party’s decision over government formation, Shinde informed, the Sena stands by the 50:50 clause. This assertion is a stern warning for the BJP to compromise soon. “The MLAs have given full authority to Uddhavji, we are ready to abide by whatever decision he takes,” said Shinde. However, he refrained from speculating who would be the party’s CM face if the BJP were to agree to a rotational CM post. He also said nothing about ongoing negotiations, if any, with the BJP on the sharing of portfolios in the new ministry.