The battle between the BJP and the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, supposedly allies in running the State government, is getting hotter and hotter with the latter going on the offensive time and again.
How a government can run with coalition partners pulling in opposite directions is to be seen to be believed. One surmised that with the Shiv Sena having been allowed a free rein in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation despite the BJP having lost to it by a whisker, Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray would be forced to break bread relatively amicably with the BJP, but Uddhav’s ‘restraint’ has been short-lived. His broadsides against the BJP are unrelenting and he makes it a point to rub the BJP on the wrong side as he did on Thursday when he and his son Aditya Thackeray held an hour-long meeting with the BJP’s bête noire Mamata Banerjee, in Mumbai.
There was no attempt to hide the fact that they discussed the BJP’s economic policies like GST and demonetization on which both Mamata and Uddhav have been scathing in their attack on the Narendra Modi government. That the two parties are striving to form a pressure group together before the 2019 general elections is no secret. How that fits in with their inter-dependence in the Assembly and in the civic body is anybody’s guess.
There is the history of the two parties having fought the last Assembly and Lok Sabha elections without an alliance to go by, but what emerged from that was a numerically weakened Sena and a much-boosted BJP.
Apparently, Uddhav Thackeray reckons that the BJP would ditch the Sena before the next round of elections and wants to upstage it before that. The Shiv Sena has intelligence on the BJP’s flirtation with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) of Sharad Pawar and the secret plans of the two parties to forge electoral links. But Pawar is no pushover. He is shrewd and calculative beyond measure and would weigh his options clinically.
Uddhav’s ire also stems from the manner in which his arch-enemy Narayan Rane has been inducted into the BJP with promise of a ministerial berth in the Fadnavis-led government in Maharashtra. Indeed, Uddhav is constantly out to provoke a split with the BJP so as to assume the mantle of the most effective opposition in the hope of cashing in on it in the next Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. Whether that is a sound strategy only time will tell but cast in the dictator’s mould by dint of being Bal Thackeray’s son, he brooks no opposition to that point of view within his party. Predictably, Rane will bring little dividend to the BJP but in the spitefulness that now characterises both the Shiv Sena and the BJP, Rane is but a pawn.