Springing a surprise, the ruling Shiv Sena on Tuesday claimed that Chief Minister Eknath Shinde was voted as the "most popular" leader in Maharashtra, several notches higher than the ally Bharatiya Janata Party's Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis.
Going a step further, Shinde has been catapulted above Fadnavis and below Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with the legend: "Modi in rashtra; Shinde in Maharashtra" (Modi in India, Shinde in Maharashtra), rattling the state BJP.
These are touted as the findings of an undated, purported Voters Survey in which the startling results have emerged.The Shiv Sena proclaimed that as far the popular choice for the post of CM was concerned, Shinde had bagged 26.1 per cent of the voters' nod, piping Fadnavis - by a margin of 2.9 per cent - to play the second fiddle by securing 23.2 per cent.
The shocks for the BJP continued. The ad contends that Modi and Shinde are getting huge affection from the people in the survey, virtually making them a "dream-team"."The partnership of Modi-Shinde that has resulted in many public welfare projects has got the top position in a recent survey," said the ad, rattling BJP circles.
"Accordingly, 49.3 per cent of the people in Maharashtra have selected the partnership of Shinde-Fadnavis. We thank the masses for their support," said the Shiv Sena, patting itself.As many as 30.2 per cent of the voters rooted for BJP and 16.2 per cent preferred the Shiv Sena - or a total of 46.4 per cent - in the survey, details of which are not disclosed.
The survey results come with a large photo of Modi looking and grinning at Shinde who reciprocates, but the anticipated usual picture of Fadnavis conspicuously missing from the ads.Though the Shiv Sena's name symbol of Bow-and-Arrow figures at the top right, there is no reference to the party's founder the late Balasaheb Thackeray, (the father of former CM Uddhav Thackeray) to whom Shinde and his supporters regularly pay lip-service.
The ad has created more than mere ripples in political circles, with many speculating whether Shinde is flexing his muscles vis-A-vis the aggressive Fadnavis and showing him his place.It may be recalled that in the 2014 and 2019 Assembly elections, the BJP had fought the polls on the plank of "Narendra (Modi) in India, Devendra (Fadnavis) in Maharashtra".
However, now Shinde has ejected Fadnavis from that slot as per the survey results, and he has perched himself there with the brand new slogan of 'Modi in rashtra, Shinde in Maharashtra'.The full-paper ad figures in many leading Marathi papers and comes days after a row was kicked up over the CM's son and Thane MP, Dr Shrikant Shinde's threat to quit, and the bickering over the much-delayed cabinet expansion plans.
The ad comes barely a fortnight ahead of the first anniversary of swearing-in of Shinde-Fadnavis regime on June 30, 2022, after the Maha Vikas Aghadi government of Shiv Sena (UBT)-Congress-Nationalist Congress Party led by Thackeray was toppled.