'Shinde and Fadnavis have different working styles and certainly there is a crack that has come between them.'
A survey by Zee TV-Matrize has caused an upheaval in Maharashtra politics, as it stated that Eknath Shinde is a more popular choice as Maharashtra chief minister than Devendra Fadnavis, his deputy.
An advertisement issued on the basis of the survey finding stated, 'Modi for India and Shinde for Maharashtra. The dream team loved by all.'
The survey comes almost a year after Shinde split the Shiv Sena to part ways with his leader Uddhav Thackeray and joined hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party along with 40 MLAs form the government on June 30, 2022.
Though the BJP with 105 MLAs was a senior partner in the 288-member assembly, Fadnavis agreed to play second fiddle to Shinde.
Although Shinde sought to downplay the advertisement, saying both he and Fadnavis were 'in people's minds' and working together, it did seem like the advertisement was meant to tell the latter who is the boss in Maharashtra.
With Maharashtra assembly elections more than a year away and the three Opposition parties -- the Nationalist Congress Party, Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) and Congress -- still holding on strongly to their Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance, the advertisement portends challenging times for the BJP which is hoping to win 150 assembly seats on its own whenever the state elections are held.
Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com asks political commentator Abhay Deshpande what the advertisement's political significance is, and the issues plaguing the Sena-BJP alliance.
The advertisement issued in newspapers on Tuesday, June 13, stated that Shinde is more popular as chief minister with 26 percent votes vis a vis Fadnavis who had a popularity rating of 23 percent.What is the underlying political message this advertisement is sending across?
For the last some days there are tensions between Eknath Shinde's Shiv Sena members and the BJP, especially regarding Thane, Dombivali and Kalyan region.
BJP leaders in Maharashtra have started asserting to members of the Shinde group that Shinde has become chief minister because of them.
And conversely, they (Sena leaders) are telling them (BJP) that they should be thankful to the Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena as the BJP is in power because of them.
Eknath Shinde is also sending a message that he is not a puppet CM through this advertisement.
They are also trying to send a message through the Zee TV survey that this government and chief minister are popular, as they are under constant attack from Opposition parties.
But that same survey also says the BJP has 30 per cent of the popular vote while Shinde's Shiv Sena has only 16 per cent.
This is obvious because the BJP has 104 MLAs and the Shiv Sena has 40 MLAs. Future seat-sharing in the state elections will go according to these numbers.
Even the Shiv Sena (before the split with the BJP) got a maximum of 19 percent votes while the BJP got 30 to 31 percent votes in Maharashtra.
This survey figure is the same figure which was for the old Shiv Sena and BJP.
What message is being given to Fadnavis in particular because we used to hear the slogan, 'Kendra mein Narendra, rajya mein Devendra.' What is his future?
When Shinde became chief minister, Fadnavis did not want to become a part of this government. He accepted the deputy chief minister's post only on Narendra Modi's insistence.
He felt at that time that he would be accommodated in the central government or he would drive the Maharashtra government from the backseat.
Shinde and Fadnavis's relations were very cordial between 2014 and 2019 when the BJP was in power with the Shiv Sena then headed by Uddhav Thackeray.
Now, there are two power centres in Maharashtra, so obviously there will be clashes.
Both of them have different working styles and certainly there is a (visible) crack that has come between them.
Shinde wants to send a message that he is not a puppet to Fadnavis through this advertisement.
What is the problem in Thane, Dombivli and Kalyan between both parties?
Shrikant, Eknath Shinde's son, is the Lok Sabha MP from the Kalyan-Dombivli region. He has sidelined BJP leaders in that area. He wants to capture that entire area and obviously, since his father is the chief minister, he wants to have full command in the area.
Nandu Joshi is a BJP leader in Dombivli against whom a molestation case was lodged. The BJP felt that this molestation case was lodged at Shinde's behest and they took out a morcha against him (Shinde) in the area.
In Thane too, Shinde has always been very powerful, so the BJP never had much say in that city. It was only when Sanjay Kelkar contested the elections did the people of Thane vote for the BJP, otherwise it always used to be the Shiv Sena's dominance in the Lok Sabha, assembly and corporation elections in Thane city.
The clashes between the BJP and Sena were always there on the ground, but it is being highlighted more now as Shinde has become chief minister.
Sakal newspaper's recent survey stated that the Maha Vikas Aghadi government is ahead of the BJP-Sena in Maharashtra by 10 percent. Is the Zee survey somewhere meant to counter that survey finding?
I don't think so.
This Zee survey, for the moment we do not know what is the size and sample of that survey.
The condition that we see on the ground is definitely not what the survey is saying.
The sympathy which Uddhav Thackeray has got after resigning as chief minister is still there, but how long it will last, we do not know.
If and when the Mumbai municipal elections are held and if Uddhav Thackeray is able to retain the city for his party, only then will that effect be seen in the Lok Sabha elections.
If he (Uddhav) loses the municipal elections, the morale of the party will be down because so far he has kept the morale of the party high.
And if the Modi government wins a majority in the 2024 general elections, then whatever factors favour the MVA will dissipate in Maharashtra as well as local corporation elections.
These four states -- Maharashtra, Karnataka, West Bengal and Bihar -- have local combinations that work for the Opposition parties and somewhere a big dent can happen for the BJP in the 2024 general election.
And they (the BJP) have to ensure that they do not get that dent in these four states in 2024.
In Maharashtra, they won 42 Lok Sabha seats (out of 48) in alliance with the (pre-split) Shiv Sena in 2019.
If the MVA parties contest elections as one force it will be very difficult for them to win 42 seats from Maharashtra. Therefore, they will do something or the other to ensure that they do not lose these 42 seats in 2024.
Though they are confident of retaining 42 seats from Maharashtra, it is not for certain now looking at the ground situation.