By Dilip Chaware
Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde will be soon visiting Ayodhya to bow before Lord Ram. Shinde made this announcement at a meeting with prominent Hindi-speaking residents of Mumbai metropolitan region.
Shinde and his 40-odd MLA followers have repeatedly declared that they have deserted the camp of Uddhav Thackeray over the Hindutva issue. Their grouse is that Uddhav teamed up with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress party (NCP) though both have frequently taken stands against Hindu sentiments.
Though Shinde’s announcement is no surprise, its political overtones are considered to be significant. In a couple of months, Mumbai and several local bodies in the region will be facing the civic election. The demography of the Mumbai region makes it imperative for each political party to take into account the Hindutva-aligned vote of this vast population. A few days ago, Uddhav, too, had addressed a delegation of North Indians. The Congress and the BJP have substantial following from the Hindi-speaking population. Even the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) led by Raj Thackeray has softened its earlier opposition to ‘outsiders,’ as they are called by its followers.
Shinde thanked the North Indian voters for their past support and expressed confidence that they will continue to do so. He assured them that he will be taking some concrete steps in the near future to respond to their needs.
With the civic elections round the corner in the region, competition to secure support of various sections of the nearly 2.5 crore residents in and around Mumbai is bound to intensify. The process will gain momentum once the Shinde-Devendra Fadanvis team is expanded. Both leaders have been to New Delhi time and again to discuss the matter. They have claimed that they need not wait for the supreme court verdict in connection with the various petitions before it. ‘There is no bar on working of the government or expanding the cabinet,’ Fadanvis has stated in presence of Shinde.
A veteran journalist, formerly Special Correspondent, The Times of India, Mumbai.