Mumbai: A full-page advertisement placed by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena on Tuesday in many newspapers in Mumbai turned the political tables in his favour. The advertisement asserted CM Shinde’s supremacy at a time when the Shiv Sena appeared to have come under pressure from the alliance partner BJP on several fronts. Despite all-around criticism, Shinde not just defended the advertisement, but also underlined his importance in the eyes of Delhi by highlighting the nature of the “double-engine sarkar” in the state.
"Modi for India, Shinde for Maharashtra"
The advertisement titled 'Modi for India, Shinde for Maharashtra', quoted a survey where Shinde is shown as more preferred choice for the top post of CM than BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis. The advertisement attracted immediate criticism. The first to react to it was Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut, who termed it as an advertisement by “Modi-Shah’s Shiv Sena”. The Congress and the NCP too reacted to the advertisement, wherein the Congress stressed that the survey was “false”, while NCP’s Ajit Pawar expressed dismay over the fact that the advertisement didn’t carry Balasaheb Thackeray’s photograph.
Even though some of the ministers in the cabinet appeared to be a bit apologetic about the advertisement and were on the defensive, Shinde defended the advertisement and asserted that his government was very stable on a firm foundation and is achieving new heights in work and popularity.
“Ours is a government that works under the guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is a double-engine government. The centre has been providing excellent support to Maharashtra and has allocated enough funds to be able to complete all the infrastructure projects in the state. It is because of this support that we could immediately restart the big-ticket infrastructure projects stalled by the MVA government,” Shinde said.
Shinde attacks Uddhav
Shinde also taunted his predecessor Uddhav Thackeray and also affirmed that the DCM Devendra Fadnavis is with him when he said, “The projects are being completed with greater speed not just in Mumbai but the whole state. We, me and Devendra Fadnavis are working in full force to advance the state on the development path. We go to farmers and wherever roads are being built. We don’t remain seated at home.”
Shinde hailed the survey and gave the credit to Pm Modi. “The people of the state have given the highest preference to me and to Fadnavis. This boosts our morale, and we shall work with more vigour. This shall help the common people. PM Modi and HM Shah quickly approve our projects due to which all the development projects are going on in full swing,” Shinde said.
Shinde: Party’s alliance with the BJP is firm
Shinde also asserted that his party’s alliance with the BJP is firm. “Balasaheb led the Shiv Sena – BJP alliance. The alliance is based on a firm ideological base, and we haven’t come together just for some petty interests. That is the reason why the alliance is very strong,” he said and added, the Shiv Sena-BJP Mahayuti shall contest all the forthcoming Lok Sabha, Assembly and local body elections in alliance with full vigour and win them on the development plank.
The advertisement carries Sena's bow-and-arrow symbol and images of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and CM Shinde. It has no image or photo of Shiv Sena founder late Balasaheb Thackeray, a noticeable departure going by its earlier publicity materials.
“For the chief minister's position, 26.1 per cent of the people in Maharashtra desire Eknath Shinde and 23.2 per cent of the people wish to see Devendra Fadnavis as the next chief minister,” read the advertisement.
The figures and claims in the advertisement have been attributed to a Zee TV-Matrize survey.
“According to the election surveys, 30.2 per cent of citizens of Maharashtra prefer Bharatiya Janata Party, while 16.2 per cent of citizens prefer the Shiv Sena (led by Eknath Shinde). These numbers show that a total of 46.4 per cent of people of Maharashtra trust the BJP and Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena alliance for the development of the state,” the advertisement said.
Responding to the advertisement, Sanjay Raut said, “It was Balasaheb’s Shiv Sena earlier, but the advertisement has cleared the air. It has now become Modi-Shah's, Shiv Sena. Where is the image or photo of the late Balasaheb Thackeray in the advertisement?”
Chief spokesperson of the Maharashtra unit of Congress Atul Londhe called it a ‘false’ survey ‘crafted by Shinde to promote himself’. “Once the election is over, Maha Vikas Aghadi will win more than 42 Lok Sabha seats (in Maharashtra) and 200 seats in the assembly for sure. A new story would be written about him (Shinde) as ‘once upon a time, there was Shinde’,” he said.
Leader of opposition in the legislative assembly Ajit Pawar questioned the motive behind the advertisement. “If they are so popular, why don’t they announce the local body polls? If they have completed so much of work, what compels them to spend money on so many advertisements?” Pawar asked.
State BJP president Chandrashekhar Bawankule tried to downplay the advertisement. “It is always the election result that decides which party or leader is more acceptable to the voters. Shinde as a cabinet minister was popular earlier, and now his acceptance has increased as the chief minister. People of the state have lots of expectations from Fadnavis, Shinde and Modi. As a state-level leader, the people of Maharashtra have given preference to Fadnavis twice. There is no comparison between the Shiv Sena and BJP about who is a bigger or smaller party,” Bawankule said.