In a further jolt to the Uddhav Thackeray camp, the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena faction on Sunday inducted the estranged kin of Sushma Andhare, the fiery spokesperson of the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray).
Lawyer Vaijnath Waghmare, Ms. Andhare’s estranged husband, joined the Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena which is the rival Sena faction led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde.
The move comes a day after veteran Sena leader and Mumbai North West MP Gajanan Kirtikar also defected to the Shinde camp, further weakening the Thackeray faction at a time when the critical Maharashtra civic polls are inching closer. The CM’s faction now has the support of 40 of the 55 Sena MLAs and 13 of the 19 Sena MPs.
However, an unruffled Ms. Andhare, who is a noted Ambedkarite activist, lecturer and writer, said the induction of her long-separated husband into the Shinde camp made no difference to her or to the Thackeray-led Sena.
“These are just political tactics. Every person has the freedom to make his or her decision. We have been separated for the last four-five years and I am not aware of his [Mr. Waghmare’s] political intentions. Even then, I will give my best wishes for his career. It is his independent decision. After all, it is always tempting to enter the party that is in power as one perceives opportunities,” said Ms. Andhare, remarking that she had no interest in commenting further on the matter.
Stressing the political nature of such moves, she observed that the Shinde faction MP Bhavana Gawli’s estranged husband Prasad Surve had joined Mr. Thackeray’s camp. “Likewise, while Gajanan Kirtikar may have joined the Eknath Shinde group, his son Amol Kirtikar is still with us. So, these things are personal decisions,” Ms. Andhare said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Waghmare said he would not mind if the Shinde camp propped him up as a candidate against his estranged wife in future polls.
Noted for her pugnacious speeches and lacerating wit, Ms. Andhare has lent hope to the embattled Thackeray faction while emerging as a formidable adversary for the Shinde camp’s leadership, who have retaliated by lodging cases against her out of pique.
Meanwhile, Thackeray camp loyalist MP Sanjay Raut, recently out on bail, appeared today with Mr. Kirtikar’s son, Amol. “While it is sad that Mr. Kirtikar has left us despite the party giving him everything, his son Amol has professed his loyalty towards Mr. Thackeray… It is youthful leaders like him who will now carry the party forward and are its future,” Mr. Raut said.
Mr. Kirtikar’s defection to Mr. Shinde’s side had long been on the cards. Soon after he became CM following his revolt in June, Mr. Shinde had visited the septuagenarian Mr. Kirtikar, then recovering from an illness, at the latter’s home. Still nominally allied with Mr. Thackeray, Mr. Kirtikar in turn had visited Mr. Shinde’s official residence during the Ganesha festivities, sparking buzz about him leaving Mr. Thackeray’s side.
According to observers, the senior Mr. Kirtikar’s presence is expected to greatly benefit the Shinde faction in its ongoing legal battle with the Thackeray camp as well as strengthen the former’s hand in the upcoming Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation poll.