Advertisement status becomes more curious and curious in Maharashtra. A day after Maharashtra dailies ran full-page ads citing a poll showing Chief Minister Eknath Shinde as most popular with voters, ahead of Devendra Fadnavis, sparking a stir, another reached Maratha dailies on Wednesday. If the first one showed Shinde and Prime Minister Narendra Modi talking to each other lively, except for Fadnavis, the new one also had a deputy prime minister.

There were three other notable additions to the montage – BJP leader Amit Shah, late Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray and deceased Sena leader Anand Degi. With Fadnavis and the BJP sneering over Tuesday’s announcement, the opposition asked Shinde if he had forgotten Thackeray and Dighe, his self-proclaimed mentors.

The new ad did not carry a slogan as of Tuesday either, which reads: “Narendra Modi is in the centre, Eknath Shinde is in Maharashtra”.

While Shinde Sena and BJP tried to portray everything was normal in the aftermath of Tuesday’s announcement, with Shinde Sena staying away from the announcement for the evening, CM may continue to feel the heat of it.

Shinde Sena partners BJP and Fadnavis, caught off guard by the announcement, are unlikely to take the slight lie down. This apparent attitude by Shinde to himself was also uncharacteristic of the 59-year-old, better known as a shrewd and silent operator, who even in his Sina consolidated days hardly desired the spotlight. If it was pulling the muscle—riding on the shoulders of the “enthusiast” who cost the ad—it was too ambitious. While the BJP may now be courting its allies, the number gap between it and Shinde Sena is now too great for the CM to place such bets.

The one who would have been let go the most was Fadnavis, who never hid his disappointment at having to play Vice to Shinde. Tuesday’s announcement can be seen as a message to him to halt his ambitions to return to the prime minister’s chair and remember that it was Modi and the Shah who set him up.

The announcement also hit Fadnavis at a time when he was on his feet as interior minister after recent sectarian tensions. Since Tuesday, he has avoided being seen in public with Shinde.

According to sources, Fadnavis also sees the developments as a personal betrayal, because when he was CM, he committed Shinde as Minister of Public Works for his favorite Samruddhi Mahamarg project. It was the stretch of 701 km between Nagpur and Mumbai that brought Shindi into the limelight. Fadnavis was known to be on good terms with him at the time.

Modi and Shah may also not appreciate the blatant power play in the form of advertising. The BJP’s political directors said that if Shinde had problems, “he should have raised his problems at the highest forum, with Modi and Shah. He would have had his way without the blink of an eye.”

Many in the BJP believe that the Maharashtra Party has made enough concessions to satisfy the Shinde faction, despite being the single largest party in the state with 105 seats. The BJP was also willing to contest the election with the impression that Shinde was the Congress party’s choice from the coalition.

Mocking what happened, NCP leader Ajit Pawar said, “Never in my political life have I seen anyone claim that he was the most popular board member with a general approval rating of 26.1%. This means that Shinde is unacceptable to 74%. of people.”

Calling himself a “friend” of Fadnavis, Maharashtra Congress President Nana Patol said, “The BJP should be careful, as Shinde is trying to shake Fadnavis.”

Supriya Soli, NCP’s National Working Chair, also took a jab: “I am looking for Shindhi Sena who has paid for ads worth crore rupees in newspapers.”

“The pressure of Fadnavis forced Shinde to make the second declaration,” said Sanjay Raut, MP for Shiv Sena (UBT).

NCP MLA Jitendra Awad said: “He (Shinde) is dangerously ambitious. We know that. We’ve seen him in action in Thane.”


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