Mumbai: Over two months after the alliance government of Shiv Sena rebel faction leader and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Bharatiya Janata Party’s Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis took charge, Union Home Minister Amit Shah is slated to visit Mumbai on September 5, at the height of the Ganeshotsav festival.
Shah’s customary annual visit to the state’s biggest festival for the past few years used to be a largely religious affair – visiting the Lalbaugcha Raja and other important venues, and taking ‘darshan’ of Lord Ganesha at the homes of several BJP bigwigs in the city.
This year, however, the devotional menu may be laced with a subtle political docket intended to strengthen the Shinde-Fadnavis regime – currently bedevilled by internal, external and legal hassles, plus other political ghosts.
Fadnavis acknowledged all the possibilities with a grin, indicating “there will be a political agenda” during Shah’s visit on Monday, but declined to elaborate.
The Shinde-Fadnavis government has been struggling to attain credibility among the masses after it toppled the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) of Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress, led by Uddhav Thackeray.
The MVA has viciously targeted and vituperatively lampooned them for the manner in which the government came to power, with embarrassing choruses of “Khoke Ok” (boxes, implying Rs 50 crore), “traitors”, etc. haunting the “ED sarkar” and needling the 40-odd legislators of the rebel group who sneaked out from June 10 onwards.
The Thackeray-led Shiv Sena even went a step ahead comparing them with a famous Arabian Nights tale of 40 dubious characters, attracting howls of protests and bitter counter-attacks from the “turncoats”.
Shinde faced flak for the massive delays in the cabinet expansion with 18 Ministers – which took place 41 days after he and Fadnavis took oath on June 30 – followed by the hiccups in allocating portfolios, and the hanging swords of the legal tussle in the Supreme Court.
Now, he confronts discontent afresh with many MLAs from his and BJP side clamouring for ministerial berths, and while a second round of expansion may take a while, Shah may cast a benign “glance” and placate the restless legislators.
There is the pending issue of the proposed tie-up with Maharashtra Navnirman Sena President Raj Thackeray, which the BJP has been hoping for since the past over a couple of years.
Once a sharp BJP-baiter, Raj Thackeray apparently sobered up his pilgrimage to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in August 2019, and now the “ED sarkar” is “after” him for a much-anticipated partnership, ahead of the upcoming crucial civic polls.
After recovering from a hip surgery, Raj Thackeray has been the flavour of the season for the BJP with a host of leaders calling on him, like Shinde, Fadnavis, state and city party heads Chandrashekhar Bawankule and Ashish Shelar, respectively, and others.
There’s intense speculation that Shah may home in on the reluctant Raj Thackeray and nudge him into a cooperative alliance – for the mutual benefit of MNS-BJP-Shinde Group – in the civic elections, to begin with, and get a “Thackeray” on the BJP side.
In recent weeks, some prominent Congressmen like ex-CM Ashok Chavan, have been doing multiple rounds of several BJP leaders, rattling the party’s state unit.
However, Congress leaders and Chavan have been claiming that these meetings pertain to “official or constituency-related works”, but the political grapevine is furiously spreading into a vineyard!
It is not immediately clear whether Shah will devote any attention to this new political development – that may well spell further doom for the MVA.