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Former auto driver Eknath Shinde takes Shiv Sena to brink of crisis

Source: PTI   -  Edited By: Senjo M R
June 21, 2022 21:35 IST
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Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde, who is at the centre of the current political turmoil in Maharashtra, had humble beginnings and rose to become a top member of the party, in the process acquiring formidable organisational skills and a wide mass base.

IMAGE: Maharashtra Chief Minister of Maharashtra Uddhav Thackeray speaks in the assembly as minister Eknath Shinde (left) looks on, in Mumbai, November 30, 2019. Photograph: ANI Photo

Once an auto-rickshaw driver in Thane city adjoining Mumbai, Shinde (58) quickly emerged as a key Shiv Sena leader in the Thane-Palghar region after joining politics, and is known for his aggressive approach towards issues of public interest.

 

The Sena leader, a four-time MLA who holds the urban development and PWD portfolios in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, never hides his humble origins.

On the contrary, he makes it a point to mention it at times to underscore how he has been indebted to the saffron party and its founder the late Bal Thackeray for his rise in state politics.

Born on February 9, 1964, Shinde left his education before he could complete graduation and soon got associated with the Shiv Sena when it was growing in the state.

Originally hailing from Satara district in western Maharashtra, Thane district, a Sena stronghold, is now his political home.

Bal Thackeray formed the Shiv Sena in 1966 on the 'sons-of-the-soil' plank and later the party aggressively championed the cause of Hindutva.

The party's aggressive approach towards issues close to its heart and the powerful persona of Bal Thackeray prompted Shinde to join the Sena in Thane.

The sitting MLA from Kopri-Pachpakhadi in Thane city is known for taking part in street politics and faces dozens of criminal charges such as voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons and rioting, among others.

Growing under the shadows of Shiv Sena stalwart from Thane Anand Dighe, he became the latter's deputy and strengthened the party after the sudden death of his colleague in 2001.

He became a corporator in the Thane Municipal Corporation in 1997 and won his maiden assembly election in 2004 and is currently in his fourth term as an MLA.

Shinde, often seen as the No. 2 leader in the party, was made the Sena's Thane district head in 2005.

His son Dr Shrikant Shinde is the sitting Lok Sabha MP from Kalyan in the district.

Shinde was appointed Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra legislative assembly for a brief period in 2014 when the Sena had not finalised its pact with the then-ally BJP for joining the Devendra Fadnavis cabinet.

His clout grew when the Shiv Sena joined hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party to form a government under Fadnavis post the 2014 assembly elections.

Shinde, a popular political figure, came closer to then chief minister Fadnavis (2014-19) and their association became a matter of discussion, so much so that except for the Thane Municipal Corporation (the Sena minister's home turf), the BJP contested elections to all civic bodies in Maharashtra in 2016 against the Shiv Sena.

When the Shiv Sena snapped its ties with the BJP and formed the MVA government with the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress in late 2019, Shinde became a cabinet minister.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, despite the NCP handling the health ministry, it was the Shinde-controlled MSRDC department that set up healthcare centres in Mumbai and its satellite cities to treat coronavirus patients.

His closeness with Fadnavis turned his own party leaders against him. The tension grew so much that after Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray became chief minister in 2019, Shinde was made guardian minister of Maoist-hit Gadchiroli district (along with Thane), located far away in the Vidarbha region which is generally seen as a punishment.

However, Shinde remained a key political asset for the Shiv Sena.

Shinde is considered a leader with grassroots connect as he is always available to hear the grievances of party workers and colleagues.

He is known to start his day early in the morning and continue his visits to party workers till late night.

Ironically, Shinde himself went incommunicado on Tuesday morning and later surfaced in a Surat hotel with a bunch of Sena MLAs, plunging the two-and-a-half-year old MVA into a deep political crisis with his act of rebellion against his party's leadership.

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Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Senjo M R© Copyright 2022 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.
 
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