INTERVIEW | We are not traitors to the Shiv Sena, but revolutionaries: Eknath Shinde

Express press service

Maharashtra’s new chief minister Eknath Shinde says he and his ‘rebellious comrades’ are not traitors to the Shiv Sena. Rather, they are revolutionaries who have shaken state policy for taking it in the right direction, he told Sudhir Suryavanshi in a candid interview.

You were once a trusted and very close associate of Shiv Sena Chairman Uddhav Thackeray. Why did you rebel against him again?

We have been in Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) for 2.5 years but as a party we were not gaining anything on the pitch. On the other hand, NCP ministers were working hard and expanding their party.

And they were also claiming that the NCP would get the most seats in the next National Assembly elections in 2024. On the other hand, there was no planning in our party. The elected deputies of the Shiv Sena were beginning to get restless.

The majority of them were against Ajit Pawar of the NCP, the finance minister, who vigorously supported the defeated NCP candidates to increase their tally in the next elections, making them contenders for the CM post. Most of the NCPs, their leaders, have declared that the next CM of Maharashtra will come from the NCP.

It forced us to find ways to survive in politics. I personally met our leaders five times, but it was in vain.

As a leader who has seen Shiv Sena since childhood, I was worried about saving the party. Forty of us made a conscious decision to link up with our natural ally – BJP.

Our leaders must also wonder why 40 MPs out of 55 left them and joined the BJP to form the government.

There have been allegations that due to pressure from central agencies you and other rebel Shiv Sena MPs left the Shiv Sena and joined the BJP, what is the truth in that?

I started social work when I was 18 and never made any money. I faced police cases…was in jail for 40 days when we protested to include Belgaum in Maharashtra. I personally forced 16 dance bars to close in Thane. I have never been afraid of anything in my life.

Therefore, there is no truth in the allegations that due to pressure from central agencies, we joined forces with the BJP and formed the government of Maharashtra. I want to say that my only asset is the people and their love. During the Covid-19 pandemic, I was admitted to hospital.

There are only a few MPs who are under the scrutiny of central agencies.

The rest of them come from the heartland, they have nothing to do with the ED or any other central probe.

These lawmakers had real issues with Sena’s leadership that we can’t ignore. It is not easy to take such a step (rebellion against the leadership of one’s own party).

What was the bone of contention between you and the party leadership that pushed you to revolt?

I had no grievance against anyone. I never joined politics to get a job, but to help and serve the people. I work 24 hours a day. From 2014 to 2019, the BJP and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis were ready to hand over the post of Deputy Chief Minister, but our leaders did not accept it because it would be given to me.

When the Tripartite Government was formed at the time, as the largest party in the MVA, I was one of the candidates for the chairmanship of the CM, but the chairman of our party told us that the Congress and the NCP wanted him as CM of Maharashtra.

I was given the Ministry of Urban Development and several people were involved. I didn’t complain about it. In the Rajya Sabha elections, we were blamed for the loss of our second candidate Sanjay Pawar while in the state legislative council, I was not involved and not even consulted by the party.

In addition, our fellow MPs from the Shiv Sena received the mother-in-law treatment from our government partners. Therefore, we all decided to do something for the party in its best interest.

To what extent do you blame Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut for this current political crisis within the Sena?

We never said a word against anyone. We have always maintained dignity against everyone. But some of the Sena leaders called us donkeys, pan shopwala, autowala, etc., and they even insulted the women MPs who were with us. Balasaheb Thackeray never tolerated any words against women.

If he had been there, he would have taught the lesson. On the one hand, the party leadership was telling them to come and talk to them, but on the other hand, some leaders were ridiculing us, asking people to attack houses, tear down our posters and banners.

They were inciting violence against us. But they forgot that we spent more than 40 years for the Shiv Sena.

Maharashtra’s new chief minister Eknath Shinde says he and his ‘rebellious comrades’ are not traitors to the Shiv Sena. Rather, they are revolutionaries who have shaken state policy for taking it in the right direction, he told Sudhir Suryavanshi in a candid interview. You were once a trusted and very close associate of Shiv Sena Chairman Uddhav Thackeray. Why did you rebel against him again? We have been in Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) for 2.5 years but as a party we were not gaining anything on the pitch. On the other hand, NCP ministers were working hard and expanding their party. And they were also claiming that the NCP would get the most seats in the next National Assembly elections in 2024. On the other hand, there was no planning in our party. The elected deputies of the Shiv Sena were beginning to get restless. The majority of them were against Ajit Pawar of the NCP, the finance minister, who vigorously supported the defeated NCP candidates to increase their tally in the next elections, making them contenders for the CM post. Most of the NCPs, their leaders, have declared that the next CM of Maharashtra will come from the NCP. It forced us to find ways to survive in politics. I personally met our leaders five times, but it was in vain. As a leader who has seen Shiv Sena since childhood, I was worried about saving the party. Forty of us made a conscious decision to link up with our natural ally – BJP. Our leaders must also wonder why 40 MPs out of 55 left them and joined the BJP to form the government. There have been allegations that due to pressure from central agencies you and other rebel Shiv Sena MPs left the Shiv Sena and joined the BJP, what is the truth in that? I started social work when I was 18 and never made any money. I faced police cases…was in jail for 40 days when we protested to include Belgaum in Maharashtra. I personally forced 16 dance bars to close in Thane. I have never been afraid of anything in my life. Therefore, there is no truth in the allegations that due to pressure from central agencies, we joined forces with the BJP and formed the government of Maharashtra. I want to say that my only asset is the people and their love. During the Covid-19 pandemic, I was admitted to hospital. There are only a few MPs who are under the scrutiny of central agencies. The rest of them come from the heartland, they have nothing to do with the ED or any other central probe. These lawmakers had real issues with Sena’s leadership that we can’t ignore. It is not easy to take such a step (rebellion against the leadership of one’s own party). What was the bone of contention between you and the party leadership that pushed you to revolt? I had no grievance against anyone. I never joined politics to get a job, but to help and serve the people. I work 24 hours a day. From 2014 to 2019, the BJP and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis were ready to hand over the post of Deputy Chief Minister, but our leaders did not accept it because it would be given to me. When the Tripartite Government was formed at the time, as the largest party in the MVA, I was one of the candidates for the chairmanship of the CM, but the chairman of our party told us that the Congress and the NCP wanted him as CM of Maharashtra. I was given the Ministry of Urban Development and several people were involved. I didn’t complain about it. In the Rajya Sabha elections, we were blamed for the loss of our second candidate Sanjay Pawar while in the state legislative council, I was not involved and not even consulted by the party. In addition, our fellow MPs from the Shiv Sena received the mother-in-law treatment from our government partners. Therefore, we all decided to do something for the party in its best interests. To what extent do you blame Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut for this current political crisis within the Sena? We never said a word against anyone. We have always maintained dignity against everyone. But some of the Sena leaders called us donkeys, pan shopwala, autowala, etc., and they even insulted the women MPs who were with us. Balasaheb Thackeray never tolerated any words against women. If he had been there, he would have taught the lesson. On the one hand, the party leadership was telling them to come and talk to them, but on the other hand, some leaders were ridiculing us, asking people to attack houses, tear down our posters and banners. They were inciting violence against us. But they forgot that we spent more than 40 years for the Shiv Sena.

Thelma J. Longworth