Eknath Shinde: a ride from an autorickshaw driver to Chief Ministertext_fields
Mumbai: Eknath Shinde plied autoriskshaw ten years ago to make ends meet. Now he is in the driving seat of India's industrial capital, a commendable elevation as a result of shrewd moves and seizing of the opportunities when they presented.
The newly sworn in Chief Minister of Maharashtra emerged from the humble neigbourhood of Thane's Ahir village near Mahabaleshwar in Satara. He lived in a chawl for 35 years driving autorishaw and helping people—of course, dabbling in Sena politics too.
One neighbor described India Today how he helped a woman and a child during the Bombay riots of 1989, driving himself the pair to the hospital.
People who know him personally praise Shinde's loyalty and dedication with one negibour waxing lyrical, saying, "Shinde hardly sleeps, always helping people".
That was over a decade before, the 58-year-old riding a political upheaval in Shiv Sena, partly masterminded by him, became the 20 th Chief Minister of the state—just in 10 days with the plot began exactly on June 20.
Covering the 'long distance' from being a lawmaker to Chief Minister —leading and guarding how a sheepherder does with his flock—this bearded man led Shiv Sena lawmakers from Gujarat to Assam to Goa before landing himself in the CM's post.
His political career spanning 37 years has been eventful, starting under the tutelage of Thane Sena chief, the firebrand Anand Dighe. He would soon win the confidence of Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray, and later the trusted aides of Uddhav Thackeray.
This soft-spoken, mild-mannered Maratha leader shifted from his native Ahir village to the urban Thane town in his early-twenties, and over the years Sena found him to be a quick thinker and on-the-spot decision-maker.
Shinde went through the early grind supporting his family working on the streets and pursued education completing his B.A.
In 1986, he met his future mentor Dighe and joined the Shiv Sena full time, and the party elected him twice to the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC).
In June 2000, two of his children aged 11 and 7 drowned in a boat mishap in a lake near his native village. He was left with his only son Shrikant.
Devastated to the marrow, Shinde appeared adrift. Now Dighe entrusted him with greater responsibilities to take his mind off the double loss.
The following year, after Dighe passed away, Shinde turned out to be the torchbearer of his legacy and became close to the Sena chief and other senior leaders.
The party then chose him for a MLA from Thane and he won and repeated victory consecutively in 2009, 2014 and then in 2019.
In 2014, after a change of government at the Centre, with the BJP riding high, the Shiv Sena decided against joining the minority government of CM Devendra Fadnavis, its old ally.
Shinde served as Leader of Opposition for around three weeks, before the restless Sena walked back to the treasury benches, though he did not get the post of Deputy CM.
After the 2019 elections, he was widely believed to be the next CM. After a bitter row with the BJP, the Shiv Sena joined hands with Nationalist Congress Party-Congress to form the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.
NCP President Sharad Pawar had other plans. He insisted Uddhav Thackeray take the reins as the CM though Shinde was the de facto No. 2 and Shiv Sena Legislature Party Leader.
On June 20, after the MVA suffered reverses in the biennial Rajya Sabha and Legislative Council polls, a group of MLAs led by Shinde staged an unheard-of mega-rebellion against Thackeray — and laid a condition that the Sena must walk out of the MVA 'unnatural alliance' plus join hands with the BJP.
Shinde insisted this was imperative in view of the sentiments of the people of Maharashtra who had voted for the Sena-BJP in 2019 and to preserve 'Balasaheb Thackeray's Hindutva'.
Left with no options or support of nearly 40 of the Sena MLAs, Thackeray took the only route – resign in grace late on Wednesday – paving the way for Shinde's elevation as the new CM after 24 hours.
Shinde was instrumental in transforming Thane from a decrepit industrial outpost into a modern city rivalling Mumbai, and he lives there with his wife Lata, son and MP Shrikant, an orthopaedic surgeon, and other family members.
With inputs from IANS and other sources