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Battle for Bhavan, Funds, and Shakhas

For now, while the decision on the party symbol and name stands clear, the next big question for Uddhav Thackery is reviving the morale of the Sainiks on the ground and taking hold of the party’s offices and shakhas. While Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has stated that the party will not stake claim to any […]

For now, while the decision on the party symbol and name stands clear, the next big question for Uddhav Thackery is reviving the morale of the Sainiks on the ground and taking hold of the party’s offices and shakhas. While Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has stated that the party will not stake claim to any property, party funds, or wealth of the Shiv Sena, with a lack of clarity on what will come ahead, the shakhas and its large coffers are still out in the open. The party’s ubiquitous shakhas are known to be the strength of its presence across the state, an asset both factions will want to grab especially given the impending elections. That Shiv Sena led by Eknath Shinde took control of the party’s office in the legislative building just days after it received ECI’s recognition makes it evident that a fight might ensue in the future.
According to a party insider, most shakhas (party offices) are managed by shakha pramukhs, or rural community organisations like mandals and trusts. This makes it difficult for any political group to assert ownership over them. Reportedly, the Shivai Seva Trust is likely to take over a significant number of Shiv Sena’s regional shakhas. The Shivai Seva Trust is led by a supporter of the Thackeray family and the Trustees include prominent officials such as Subhash Desai and Arvind Sawant. Interestingly, the use of a public trust’s real estate for political purposes for a long period is governed by the Maharashtra Public Trusts Act which makes it difficult for either faction to assert ownership.
The Shiv Sena Bhavan, which serves as the head office of the party and Saamana and Marmik, the party’s mouthpiece and animated magazine respectively, by some measure are also up for grabs. The Shiv Sena Bhavan is owned by the Shivai Seva Trust. Similar to party funds and shakhas, the Shinde camp has stated that they are not interested in taking over Sena Bhavan, but they want what is legally due to them.
Saamana and Marmik are currently held by a trust called Prabodhan Prakashan, and are shielded from the ongoing crisis in the party. The organisations affiliated to the Sena, such as Sthaniya Lokadhikar Samiti and Bhartiya Kamgar Sena, are managed by unions and are not under the direct control of the political outfit. Any claim made regarding these organisations will lead to a legal battle.
According to an annual audit fact sheet submitted to the ECI in February 2022, the Shiv Sena reportedly earned around Rs 13-14 crore in the fiscal year 2020-21 through various sources such as grants, campaign contributions, memberships, and book deals. While Eknath Shinde gave up claims on the assets owned by the Uddhav Sena, the real challenge for both factions of the party is to reclaim the trust of the Sainiks on the ground.

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