The adept handling of the Manoj Jarange Patil-led Maratha agitation not only consolidates the position of chief minister Eknath Shinde but also marks the emergence of Shinde as the dark horse of Maharashtra politics. Shinde, who himself is a Maratha, could also benefit electorally from the politically strong Maratha vote bank, that has been the mainstay of the Pawars — both uncle Sharad and his nephew Ajit — as also the Congress. By successfully containing the agitation on the outskirts of Mumbai, the CM now finds himself one-up over his deputies, Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar, both of whom nurse ambitions to upstage him. And the backlash is already showing up. Fadnavis has already clarified that police cases will continue against arsonists who indulged in violence against policemen specifying that only courts were authorised to withdraw cases. Shinde had promised withdrawal of all police cases against Maratha activists. Fadnavis supporter advocate Gunaratne Sadavarte has also threatened to challenge the government reservation order in the courts. Chhagan Bhujbal from the Ajit Pawar faction of the NCP has also criticised the draft notification from Shinde government terming the reservation as an eyewash that will not stand up to legal scrutiny. The agitation has successfully helped divert attention from Shinde and his team of 39 legislators being called as ‘traitors’ by Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena that kept Shinde on the defensive and threatened his electoral stakes. The agitation also helped divert attention from the negative effect of breaking two popular political parties — Shiv Sena and NCP for the BJP.