Eknath Shinde, who took oath as Chief Minister on Thursday after leading the revolt in Shiv Sena that brought down the Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA coalition government, has risen from the grassroots.
The journey to the top post has not been easy for the 58-year-old leader, who was born on February 9, 1964, in a poor family in the Satara district of Maharashtra. A hard worker, he took up various tasks including driving an auto-rickshaw and working in a factory to support his family.
Shinde joined the Shiv Sena in 1980 after being influenced by Bal Thackeray's speeches and thoughts.
He made his mark in the party with the help of his mentor Anand Dighe and was elected to the Thane Municipal Corporation in 1997.
After a brief stint as Leader of the House in the Thane Municipal Corporation, Shinde entered the state Assembly in 2004 and was later appointed as Shiv Sena's Thane district chief. He has not looked back having won the assembly polls four times and is MLA from Kopri-Pachpakhadi in the state assembly.
He served as a minister in the Devendra Fadnavis-led government between 2014-19. He was also appointed as Leader of the Shiv Sena legislature party in 2019. He took oath as Cabinet Minister in the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.
Shinde has repeatedly avowed his commitment to Hindutva and his faction had been given the name of 'Shiv Sena Balasaheb' during the Maharashtra political crisis.
Following the revolt, Shiv Sena led by Uddhav Thackeray had removed Shinde as its Legislative party leader and replaced him with Sewri MLA Ajay Chaudhary.
The Eknath Shinde camp, which had stayed mostly in Guwahati during the revolt, said that Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) are Shiv Sena's traditional rivals. They had earlier urged Uddhav Thackeray to stitch a "natural alliance" with the BJP.
BJP and Shiv Sena had fought the 2019 assembly polls together but differences cropped up over the post of Chief Minister.
Uddhav Thackeray resigned on Wednesday after the Shinde-led group kept adding to its numbers and Supreme Court gave a go-ahead for a floor test in the assembly.
A day later, Shinde and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis met Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari to stake a claim to form the government in the state. After the meeting, Fadnavis announced that Shinde will take oath as the chief minister.
The BJP at present has 106 MLAs in the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly and Shinde claims to have the support of 50 legislators including 40 rebel Shiv Sena MLAs.
"The decision that we have taken is committed to Balasaheb's Hindutva and for the development work in the constituencies of our MLAs. We have 50 MLAs with us," Shinde said at the press conference.
"We went to former CM Thackeray with our constituency's grievances and development work...as we started realizing that it would be difficult for us to win the next elections. We demanded a natural alliance with BJP," he added.
A reason for a large group of Shiv Sena MLAs supporting Shinde is seen to be his accessibility. He was seen to be number two after Thackerays in Shiv Sena and retains a strong grassroots connect. (ANI)