Anil Desai, 58
Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha “I am one of the party workers and a footsoldier. We just follow the orders of the commander who is Uddhavji,” says Anil Desai.
Desai is a party secretary and handles all matters related to the Election Commission, including updating leaders and the cadre about electoral reforms, managing finances, data collection regarding the electoral rolls and more. Desai is also entrusted with the job of distributing around 12,000 AB forms (party nominations) to candidates across ten municipal corporations, 25 zilla parishads and 283 panchayat samitis in the state. From micro-managing the preparations for seat-sharing talks to keeping a macro view of the party’s strengths and weaknesses, Desai is central to the Sena’s election-time functioning. The Sena team that participated in seat-sharing discussions with the BJP was headed by him, with the party trusting his experience in the area — Desai was involved in seat-sharing talks for zilla parishads, panchayat samitis and other bodies along with senior BJP leaders Sudhir Munganitwar and Raosaheb Danve. According to Sena insiders, Desai is the ‘single point person’ for party president Uddhav Thackeray on all organisational matters and for coordination among senior Sena leaders. Desai is also the man charged with maintaining a dialogue with all other political parties, considered a man of etiquette and finesse in handling social relations.
Anil Parab, 50
Legislator and Vibhag Pramukh “As a hardcore Shiv Sainik, I am just focused on increasing the party’s tally in the BMC and to expand the party’s base.” – Anil Parab.
Parab, a wily politician with scores of protests, agitations and electioneering successes under his belt, handles all legal matters of the Shiv Sena. Since 1997, he has been closely involved in planning for BMC elections. A member of the Maharashtra Legislative Council, Parab is the only vibhag pramukh (regional head) in the Sena to be entrusted with two regions, his area of operation thus stretching from Bandra to Jogeshwari, a huge swathe of the western suburbs. Sena leaders say Parab was not only a key negotiator during the talks with the BJP, but he was also the one who came up with the idea of a ‘reverse strategy’ to counter the BJP. On two key subjects, the BJP’s demand that the Sena toe its line on transparency in the working of the BMC and on its demand for 114 seats to contest in the 227-member corporation, it was Parab’s gameplan to respond with unexpected counter offers. While the Sena’s counter offer of 60 seats to the BJP aimed to insult, it suggestion that the state government also adopt transparency by inviting the Lokayukta and Opposition leaders into Cabinet meetings won the party some cheers. Parab is also closely involved in organising the party’s big rallies. To his credit, the Sena won its highest number of seats from Andheri vibhag in the 2012 civic polls.
Ravindra Mirlekar, 63
Deputy party leader, former legislator “I am keen to bring about some positive change in society, and have been helping build the party at the grassroots”- Ravindra Mirlekar.
When Mirlekar was inducted into the three-member negotiation team to discuss seat-sharing with the Bharatiya Janata Party, some were surprised at the choice of a somewhat low-profile leader for the key negotiations. But the deputy leader emerged as a dark horse in the talks, after being selected for the negotiations over more senior ministers and Sainiks. It was Mirlekar who spoke out the Shiv Sena’s counter-offer of 60 seats to the BJP, after the latter sought 114, or more than 50 per cent of the seats in the 227-member corporation. Sena leaders say Mirlekar has been involved in building up the party’s grassroots network in North Mumbai and South Mumbai. This was precisely the reason for his induction into the Sena’s negotiation — he knew the party’s precise strength on the ground in Mumbai, ward-wise. Mirlekar had been the vibhag pramukh of South Mumbai for 10 years since 1986 and is known for working closely with booth-level party workers. Besides, he is also known for bringing discipline among the workers and pushing them to take up party work. Apart from Mumbai, he is also involved in overseeing the elections taking place for Thane and Ulhasnagar civic bodies for the party.
Subhash Desai, 74
Cabinet minister in Maharashtra “My focus has always been on adopting modern technologies to enhance the party’s appeal vis-a-vis the younger generation.”
– Subhash Desai
Desai is among the senior-most leaders in the party, a veteran of poll campaigns. As a minister, his presence across the state where municipal corporation and zilla parishad polls are being held is a given, as is his role as the Sena’s senior-most representative in the government. Owing to his experience, the Sena manifesto for the BMC polls has detailed inputs from Desai. Sena leaders say he is also the mainstay for organisational matters, right from the conduct of Sainiks within the organisation to administration of internal affairs. Also, while he is not known to be tech- savvy, he understands the importance of digital tools and technology, and is said to be keen to use the campaigning tools, including social media. Also, having nurtured Goregaon for decades, party leaders say, he remains involved in the thick of candidate selection, strategising and campaigning in Goregaon. The industries minister has also had the opportunity to drum up support for the state from investors and industry majors, while adroitly also playing opposition within the government. Whether it was leading the Sena delegation in Delhi seeking to make income up to Rs 5 lakh tax-free or acknowledging the fears of locals in Jaitapur where a nuclear power plant continues to remain stalled, Desai is capable of speaking for the voter.
Milind Narvekar, 48
Personal Assistant to Uddhav Thackeray “As a Shiv Sainik, I will do every job assigned to me by Uddhavji, while remaining in the background.” -Milind Narvekar
Easily the most high-profile personal assistant in Maharashtra politics, Milind Narvekar is known among Sainiks as Uddhav Thackeray’s shadow. Rumoured to have the boss’ ear on every matter concerning the party and polls, Narvekar has been personal assistant to Uddhav for the last 23 years, long before the latter had made his political ambitions clear. Believed to be a power centre in the Sena, Narvekar has been involved in raising funds for the party. The other complex assignment he has taken on is to bring in a large number of corporators from other parties, including from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, almost with a view to bring the latter to its knees. According to a leader, Narvekar is keeping a close watch on Mumbai and Nashik, and has brought in more than six MNS corporators into the party fold over the last few months. Also to his credit is the foiling of Narayan Rane’s reported attempts to whisk away nearly 40 legislators with him when he left the party to join the Congress in 2005. Variously described as a shrewd politician and capable of dealing with unsavoury elements, Narvekar is known for having a good network with senior leaders from across party lines, continuing to maintain an equation with former CM Prithviraj Chavan and current CM Devendra Fadnavis.
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