(Note: This story was originally published in February 2023 and is being replugged now in light of recent developments in Maharashtra)
On June 30 last year, Maharashtra’s then-Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde walked out of Shiv Sena with 40 of its 55 MLAs, leading to a vertical split in the 57-year-old party. Aided by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Shinde brought down the tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition’s government headed by the then-Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.
Within days of bringing down MVA's stable government, Shinde formed the government in an alliance with the BJP and took over as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra.
The split in Shiv Sena was engineered with military precision by Shinde and former Maharashtra CM and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis. They met in night, away from prying eyes, and worked on decimating Shiv Sena, amongst the largest regional parties in the country.
After establishing control over the Shiv Sena legislature party, Shinde decided to take over Shiv Sena from the Thackerays. Legal minds and top BJP leadership had advised Shinde that taking over Shiv Sena was a better option than seeking recognition from the Election Commission of India as a breakaway faction.
Both the factions of Shiv Sena led by Uddhav Thackeray and Shinde approached the Election Commission and staked their claims to the name and the registered 'bow and arrow' symbol. While Thackeray was defending the political legacy of the Shiv Sena, a party founded by his late father Bal Thackeray, Shinde’s claim was for a Shiv Sena without the Thackerays. Each faction also filed cases against each other in the Supreme Court pertaining to the disqualification of MLAs.
On Friday evening, with the decision of the EC to hand over the name ‘Shiv Sena’ and the registered 'bow and arrow' symbol to the faction Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena headed by Shinde, the Thackerays were ousted from the party.