Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and his party slipped in damage-control mode on Wednesday by releasing yet another full-page advertisement to “correct” the previous omissions and announced a ‘coordination committee’ to look after the alliance affairs even as the miffed Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis skipped public appearance with Shinde for the second consecutive day.
Based on the same survey quoted in previous advertisement, the advertisement appeared in select newspapers on Wednesday said 49.3 per cent of people wanted the united leadership of Shinde and Fadnavis along with a prominent photograph of the duo. The advertisement also sought to correct past mistakes by incorporating pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the de facto in-charge of the BJP's affairs in Maharashtra and those of Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray and Anand Dighe, the mentor of CM Shinde. The advertisement also proclaimed that 46.4 per cent of people wanted the BJP-Sena alliance government again in the state.
However, in an attempt to correct the previous mistakes, the advertisement committed new mistakes by adding photographs of Shiv Sena ministers at the bottom. Those included the ministers with shoddy performance whom the BJP wanted to be dropped from the cabinet. Questions were also being raised about who gave the advertisements.
One of the ministers Shambhuraj Desai’s statement, “Some ‘unknown well wisher’ of the party must have placed the advertisement” provided fodder for the opposition criticism. National Congress Party’s national working president and MP Supriya Sule wondered, “I am in search of that well-wisher who gave advertisements worth crores of rupees in newspapers. I think today’s design came from Delhi and that possibility cannot be ruled out.”
Asked what could have prompted the new advertisement on Wednesday, Sule quipped, “An invisible hand from Delhi.”
Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar said the BJP and Shinde-led Sena should call for the elections immediately if they are so confident of enjoying public support.
“The ruling side claimed that the ad was placed by a well-wisher. We would like to know who is that well-wisher with so much money,” he said, referring to Sena minister Shambhuraj Desai's claim that the advertisement on Tuesday was probably given by a well-wisher of their party.
Pawar also pointed out that most of the Sena ministers featuring in Wednesday’s ad are controversial figures.
Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut said that the fresh advertisement was the result of an earful from Fadnavis. “It has become clear what is in their mind. But everything is not good. The government will collapse like a house of cards. There is a proxy war between Shinde and BJP,” he added.
Meanwhile, DCM Fadnavis, who had skipped his scheduled programs at Kolhapur on Tuesday, also did so on Wednesday and avoided a program where he was supposed to share stage with CM Shinde. In fact, Fadnavis cancelled all appointments for next few days out of Mumbai owing to inflammation of the tissues in sinuses due to which he has been advised to avoid air-travel. However, on Wednesday evening he was scheduled to share dais with CM at the platinum jubilee function of the MSRTC, which he skipped leading to raised eyebrows and speculations that something has gone very wrong within the alliance.
BJP-Shiv Sena Crossfire
The cross-fire between the other BJP and Shiv Sena leaders too continued on Wednesday. BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP and former agriculture minister Anil Bonde said, “A frog can not become an Oxen, how much it may swell,” in a cryptic reference to CM Shinde. “Shinde is a good Chief Minister, the people have accepted him. But, his coterie misguides him. They feel Thane means whole Maharashtra,” he added.
Senior Shiv Sena leader and minister for state excise, Shambhuraj Desai, however, tried to shield the alliance and said, “A coordination committee of senior leaders will be formed very soon to bury the differences and focus on the 2024 elections.”