Shinde hails from Thane, the district outside Mumbai that was Dighe’s fiefdom, and idolises the late leader who was known for giving diktats, solve fights and was seen as a parallel court with his word being final.
While Dighe was loyal to the Sena till his death in 2001, he ran the party in Thane as he felt it fit and even Bal Thackeray could not rein him in. With that memory fresh in mind, the Sena did not give a free hand in the Thane-Kalyan belt to Shinde as he would have liked.
Sena insiders said the Thackerays always felt “nervous” about Shinde’s clout in the party and there were efforts to cut him down to size. While Shinde was appointed as the legislative party chief and was given the plum urban development ministry, his supporters claim that there were interferences in his department and efforts to sideline him. He was also not consulted on crucial decision-making.
Shinde has been feeling restless after Aaditya Thackeray‘s entry into politics as Uddhav’s son brought in his own young group of people and further relegated Shinde in the party.
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Meanwhile, his supporters in Thane have been trying to prop up him. In the last five years, there have been at least three instances where they had put up huge hoardings and banners proclaiming him to be the “future chief minister”, in turn annoying the Thackerays.
There is also a regional divide angle for Shinde’s exclusion from the inner circle of the Thackeray family, said party sources. Under Uddhav Thackeray, the Sena has surrounded itself with preferred leaders like Anil Parab, Anil Desai and Arvind Sawant – all having Mumbai or Konkan connections. “Mumbai and Konkan have always been close to the Thackerays. Shinde is from Western Maharashtra and it is not a secret that most of the MLAs with him today are from the Thane- Kalyan and Western Maharashtra belt,” said a Sena leader.