MUMBAI: The meteoric rise of rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde rivals Bollywood's film scripts. An auto-driver with humble beginnings, he went on to become the right hand man of party chief Uddhav Thackeray, and his nemesis.
Shinde is a four-time MLA and two-time minister. Skilled in organising people and events, Shinde's spark was discovered and initially used by Sena's Thane district president Nanad Dighe. That's how auto-driver Shinde started driving Dighe's car.
He then became the eyes and ears of Dighe, who used to be known as the "king of Thane". Closeness with Dighe helped him get elected as a corporator in the Thane Municipal Corporation. Subsequently, Shinde became an MLA and the rest is history. Over the time, he reportedly amassed huge wealth and clout in the party. In the Maha Vikas Aghadi government led by Uddhav Thackeray, Shinde was handling plum portfolios of urban development and state road transport.
In 2019, when Sena was bargaining with the BJP over sharing of power, Shinde was dreaming of deputy chief minister post. That dream was clipped when Uddhav Thackeray decided to form government with the help of NCP and Congress.
Moreover, Uddhav's son, Aaditya Thackeray, too, joined the cabinet and became Number 2 in the party, diminishing Shinde's position in Sena further. Aaditya’s entry to Sena politics seems to have rattled the rebel leader most.
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The pandemic offered him a good opportunity to cobble up numbers in his favour. When Uddhav was undergoing spine surgery, Shinde made use of the communication gap between the CM and party MLA's.
He apparently exploited this to his favour by bringing several legislators on his side, resulting in the biggest revolt against Thackeray family in Sena's history. Shinde has not only destabilised the alliance government but also shaken the foundations of the Sena.