By Parth Gupta
In his customary birthday-eve interview to party newspapers ‘Saamna’ and ‘Dopahar Ka Saamna’, Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — a political ally. He said that he had lost faith in the BJP-led Central and Maharashtra State Government over several issues, including the GST and demonetisation.
Tumultuous history of the alliance
In the 1970s, Shiv Sena gradually moved from a pro-Marathi ideology to a broader Hindu nationalist agenda and aligned itself with the BJP. In 1989, the two parties officially formed an alliance for the Lok Sabha and the Maharashtra Assembly elections.
However, the 25-year-old alliance between the BJP and the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra collapsed before the 2014 Assembly elections. Rounds of negotiations failed to unite them on the number of seats to be contested in the Assembly elections. As the verdict came out, the BJP emerged victorious as the single largest party for the first time in the electoral history of the state. The only alternative for the Shiv Sena was to form a post-election alliance with the BJP.
Another fallout was made public in the run-up to Maharashtra Civic Body elections in February this year. The allies fought again as the BJP (which is the junior partner at the state level) asked to contest on no less than 114 out of 227 seats in the Municipal Corporation.
A love-hate relationship
The characteristic jibes from Uddhav Thackeray are not new. Thackeray has developed a love-hate relationship with the BJP. He discharges hate in public but always ends up supporting them behind the doors.
When the names of probable candidates for the presidential elections were being floated, the Shiv Sena proposed RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat’s name. Immediately after Ram Nath Kovind was picked to represent the BJP, Shiv Sena termed the move as Dalit vote-bank politics but ended up backing Kovind.
During the recent farmers’ protests in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena dared the government to declare loan waivers for the farmers, which CM Fadnavis did. Interestingly, the Shiv Sena now claims that the loan waiver was their brain child and that the BJP is taking undue credit for it. In addition, the Sena took a very unconventional step by asking for a list of 40 lakh farmers whose loans will be completely waived off.
Contentions over the GST and demonetisation
Thackeray claimed that the GST was a “complete mess”. He asserted that there were protests against it even in PM Modi’s home state of Gujarat. “The acche din are only in advertisements. Do we have true democracy in the country if all affairs are going to be run as per the wishes of the Prime Minister?” He accused Modi of attacking democratic values: “He is centralising power at the Centre, instead of decentralising it. He is taking away the independence of the states”.
The rollout of the GST resulted in closing down of interstate transport barriers. The octroi levy, which was the Shiv Sena-controlled BMC’s (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) biggest revenue grosser, was also subsumed with the launch of GST. But the Shiv Sena projected it as a breakdown of the security structure of Mumbai.
Questioning the Centre over demonetisation, Thackerey pressed that over 1.5 million people have lost their jobs, which would affect “dal-roti” of six million dependents. He also alleged corruption in CM Devendra Fadnavis’s flagship water conservation project — Jalyukta Shivar. Further, he has been opposing the stamp duty hike on conveyance deeds from 3% to 4% in rural areas and the 3% stamp duty on property gifted to “blood relations” proposed by the Fadnavis government.
With every slander against its ally, the Shiv Sena is setting a new low for the state alliance. The BJP MLAs will not be able to swallow direct attacks on PM Modi. Looking for opportunities to weaken the BJP in states, Congress leader Priyank Kharge applauded the Shiv Sena for raising “valid points” and urged the Shiv Sena to walk out of the alliance.
In a scenario where Shiv Sena decides to pull the plug, re-elections are quite possible since neither of the parties has a clear majority. Nor can either of them form an alliance with the NCP (Nationalist Congress Party), having had criticised it for corruption at various events.
Bleak prospects of re-elections
The alliance in Maharashtra is on the verge of falling apart. Getting positive results by walking out is unlikely as the poll results for 212 Municipal Councils and Nagar Panchayats, 25 Zilla Parishads, and 10 Municipal Corporations over the past eight months have not been encouraging for the Shiv Sena. The Sena is not in control of a majority of the constituencies in the state. Hence, a pull-out from the government may result in massive defections from the Sena to the BJP.
The BJP’s tolerance of Shiv Sena’s aggression seems to be a well thought-out strategy. They know that re-elections can get messy as the government is already dealing with loan waivers. Re-election will seem like an attempt to escape the responsibility of allocating funds for the loan waiver. Also, in case the BJP does not attain the magic number of 145 (at present, the BJP holds 122 seats), it will be unable to form a government.
Featured Image Source: Flickr
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