With the BJP roping in Ajit Pawar and his NCP MLAs into the ruling fold in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde finds itself on the back foot, its response to the unfolding events marked by caution and rising unease.
The MLAs and MPs who had been vocal about their decision to side with Shinde when the Sena split have suddenly fallen silent even as their ruling ally BJP is going all out to welcome its new-found NCP allies. “I have no comments,” said Maval MP Shrirang Barne, who was among the first to defect to the Shinde camp after the Shiv Sena split following Shinde’s rebellion.
When asked whether BJP’s move to rope in Ajit Pawar has unnerved the party rank and file, Barne said, “I would not like to comment about this…The decision has been taken by the higher-ups in the BJP and the party will respond to it.”
Barne also denied that he was shaken by the development. “No, I am not rattled. I am the MP and I will contest the next election from Maval,” he said.
Asked about the possible replacement of Eknath Shinde as the chief minister and the likelihood of Ajit Pawar taking charge, Barne said, “I don’t see such a thing happening…”
“We are all watching the developments as they unfold,” Barne said when asked about the mood in the party.
Another former MP Shivajijrao Adhalrao-Patil, who represented the Shirur constituency, said he too was not in touch with anyone. “I had met the chief minister yesterday but could not get to speak to him. Neither am I in touch with any party leader nor has anyone contacted me,” he said.
Asked as to whether it has come as a big jolt to the Sena rank and file, Adhalrao-Patil said, “I don’t think…And before commenting anything, we would like to see how the situation develops.”
Sanjay Shirsat, an Aurangabad MLA belonging to the Shinde Sena, said that whatever has happened “happened as per a pre-decided agreement”. “We have never hankered for power,” he said.
Sanjay Gaikwad, another MLA belonging to the Shinde camp, said there was no fear that Shinde would lose his CM post. “The Supreme Court has already given its decision. Now the decision is with the Assembly Speaker. Even if some MLAs are disqualified by the Speaker, Shinde will not lose his chief ministerial post. He will complete his term and we will fight the next elections under his leadership,” Gaikwad said.
MP and Shiv Sena (UBT) spokesperson Sanjay Raut, however, said the Shinde camp was on a sticky wicket. “Shinde’s MLAs are going to be disqualified and that is why BJP has brought in Ajit Pawar and his MLAs in their fold. Eknath Shinde is all set to lose his chief ministerial post. The entire Shinde camp is restless,” he said. “Ajit Pawar has struck a deal with BJP. Ajit Pawar will become the chief minister soon,” he added.