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It is high time for Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray to take the political plunge and take over the state's reins as the next Chief Minister, a prominent farm activist said on Saturday.
Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) Chairman Kishore Tiwari, who snapped ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) last Monday and joined the Sena yesterday, said the state is "looking up to Uddhav Thackeray" to take command as a "Supreme Senapati" of the state.
"I have extensively toured the state in recent months. There is tremendous respect for the late Bal Thackeray and his family. People keep asking when Uddhav Thackeray will guide the state's destiny," Tiwari told IANS.
The VJAS chief's comments assume significance, coming barely hours after the Election Commission announced the polls schedule for Maharashtra.
Tiwari's demand comes barely on the eve of BJP President Amit Shah's visit to Mumbai on Sunday when the alliance with the Sena is expected to be signed and sealed.
The Sena is insisting on a 50:50 formula with the BJP, fighting 135 seats each and keeping the remaining 18 seats for other smaller allies - Republican Party of India(A), Shiv Sangram Party, Rashtriya Samaj Party and Swabhimani Party.
The VJAS pointed out that this formula was finalised at a joint meeting of Shah, Fadnavis and Thackeray prior to the Lok Sabha elections, plus it was decided to share the CM's post for 30 months each, "and that must be respected now".
Tiwari added that "the Thackerays rank among state's leading and influential political families", have been part of two governments - 1995 and 2014 - but it has mystified their die-hard supporters why the family scions are hesitant to claim the prized post of CM.
"Even if Uddhav Thackeray throws his hat in the ring, we are confident that others allies will follow suit, and probably even the opposition parties may offer support if requireda I can assure the farmers' support from Vidarbha is guaranteed," Tiwari claimed.
Since the founding of the Shiv Sena by the late patriarch Bal Thackeray, no family member has ever stood for any election, though a clan member (Shalini Thackeray) had contested a couple of times unsuccessfully.
According to Tiwari, this quality - shunning political offices - alone could go in favour of Uddhav Thackeray, and is the desire of thousands of activists and the peasants.
Interestingly, the two parties had fought the assembly elections separately, the Shiv Sena even sat in the Opposition for around a month - as Fadnavis cobbled together a minority government "before defecting" to the ruling side.
"At that time, the Fadnavis government secured support from the opposition Nationalist Congress Party. Nothing is impossible in politics. Many apprehensions the party leaders may harbour would become irrelevant once Uddhav Thackeray decides to contest," Tiwari said.
In the outgoing assembly, the BJP had 122 MLAs, the Shiv Sena 63, plus seven independents supporting the ruling alliance.