By Karan Anand
On Monday, Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut launched a scathing attack on the ruling BJP government. He blamed the party for hiked fuel prices, concurrent farmer issues and concluded that his party won’t take the blame for the same. Writing for Sena’s mouthpiece Saamna, Raut also said that, “Whether we will stay in government or withdraw, this will be decided soon.”
Bashing BJP for the bullet train project, he also said, “Today, the nation is experiencing what happens when people having no merit and connect with the masses enter the government and rule the nation.” He also commented that the money spent on bullet train should have been used to bring down inflation.
Not an unprecedented measure
The BJP and Shiv Sena have been in an alliance since 1989. Following disputes over seat sharing, their alliance officially came to an end before the 2014 Maharashtra assembly elections. Following this, they re-formed a post-election alliance, and Devendra Fadnavis became the CM.
Even though both the parties share similar right-wing views, they have been at loggerheads for the past 2-3 years. In January, before the Maharashtra civic polls, Fadnavis tweeted to Shiv Sena, “Change will happen. It will happen with you or without you.” Following this tweet, Uddhav Thackeray announced that Shiv Sena will fight the municipal elections without the BJP. In the end, both were almost head to head, with Shiv Sena winning 84 seats and BJP winning 82 seats in the much coveted Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). Following the announcement of Sharad Pawar in this year’s Padma Vibhushan list, Sena started having suspicions regarding the increasing proximity between BJP and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Since the death of Balasaheb Thakare, the relations between Sena and BJP have been in a downward spiral. These antics by the Saamna editor aren’t new; he has previously accused the BJP of many ill doings in administration and in politics. The Shiv Sena has been unhappy with the BJP over the sharing of ministerial berths at the centre (Shiv Sena has only one portfolio in the cabinet, that of Heavy Industries and Public Sector Enterprise). Sena—who always acted as the big brother in the alliance—is now finding it difficult to play second fiddle. Shiv Sena is using these tactics to leverage some positions in the government at state and local level.
Sena has been the boss of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation for the past several years; that is the reason many predicted that the BJP would remain in alliance with Shiv Sena. Mumbai’s BMC is Asia’s richest Municipal body with a budget more than the combined budget of the five North Eastern states. Thus, the BJP cannot afford to lose out on the control over India’s financial capital.
The unpredictable future
It is very difficult for anyone to guess what the political scenario would be like in the coming future. Even during the Sena-BJP alliance, there were many small Municipal bodies where both of these parties have made coalitions with the NCP or Congress. The hostility has always been there, but with the assembly elections due in two years, the situation is intensifying every passing day.
With the ex-CM of Shiv Sena, Narayan Rane, parting ways with the Congress after being with them for the last 12 years, there’s a speculation of the Konkan region strongman joining the BJP. The ultimatum of Shiv Sena that it would break away might also be an effort to keep Rane away from the BJP, as the Konkan region has always been a stronghold of Shiv Sena. Rane’s entry in BJP might weaken Sena’s position in the coastal area.
There are also talks that if the Hindutva alliance breaks, many of the Sena MLA’s would join the BJP. It is also the first time when the Shiv Sena is battling in-house problems. The ‘sainiks’ who have been the backbone of Shiv Sena’s electoral victories are now unhappy with the functioning of the party and the performance of the ministers. It would be interesting to see what the future holds for the politics in Maharashtra.
What if the alliance breaks?
A scenario that looks possible in the current context will have far-reaching effects in the politics of the richest Indian state: the BJP can survive in the state assembly even though they fall short of an absolute majority, as the NCP has given them unconditional support on the grounds of having a “stable government”. The situation is conducive to the BJP’s success as their power is on the rise in rural Maharashtra. But the BJP which rose to power with the help of Shiv Sena might fail to capitalise on their long-term goals. Shiv Sena has a fixed voter base—the Marathi middle class—which they retain on any given day.
It will be interesting to see what role the NCP plays here—the two ‘secular’ parties (NCP and Congress) have a good chance to capitalise on the situation. But with the talks of Pawar being close to the BJP, even that doesn’t look like a possibility.
Shiv Sena will have to frame a new plan to tackle the might of the BJP; they can’t just rely on the age-old ideas of huge rallies and charismatic speeches. Even though the speculations are realistic about a break-up, India shouldn’t be surprised if they still end up together, as this has always been an ‘alliance of compromises’ and both the parties are in it for their own vested interests. The only person who could give a concrete answer to the question of the alliance’s future is Uddhav Thakarey. The rest of us will have to play the ‘wait and watch’ game for now.
Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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