The point here is will BJP learn anything from the late King? Or, just let the history repeat itself?
Till September, if anyone suggested that someone from Shiv Sena will be the next Chief Minister (CM) of Maharashtra – even if it is its future leader Aditya Thackeray, it would have sounded like a lunatic rant. But post results, not only Shiv Sena has demanded the Chief Minister post, but also successful in preventing the next government formation till they agreed on the future arrangement. It is not about whether the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will concede the seat of power to a much younger leader, who some may call – a leader of the next generation. It is about how BJP beautifully engineered a situation to be stuck in from which it is now trying hard to come out.
Though they have less than half of MLAs BJP has, by demanding the CM post, Shiv Sena is playing the role of Big Brother, which it really cherishes to be – despite their numbers. Only parallel I can think of this situation is Yudhishtira, after losing away the wife and kingdoms in the game of dice that were really won because of the valour of his younger brothers Bhima and Arjuna directing them to go with him into forests.
Why did BJP fail to prevent Sena from acting like opposition for five long years? No Answers, at least not clear ones.
The fire that is now evolving into an inferno between long-standing political allies was perhaps ignited by none other than former Shiv Sena Pramukh, Late Bal Thackeray when he spoke about the suitability of Sushma Swaraj to be the Prime Minister of India, in case if BJP wins the Lok Sabha. It was a pure hypothesis and has not even a grain of practicality. Yet, as history recorded it was Narendra Modi who became the Prime Minister with Sushma Swaraj joining his cabinet and played a vital role for one full term.
Who would have thought BJP would win the majority in 2014 – on its own? Certainly not Uddhav Thackeray. Maybe because he was advised by someone who has no touch of what was happening. Shiv Sena refused to give fifty percent seats to BJP and bullied like a real Big Brother and forced BJP to go solo and win almost double seats than the Big Brother. Accepting the reality was the hardest part for the party that thinks it was the sole guardian of Maharashtrians. Still, they were forced to bite the bullet and play the minor partner in the BJP led government but played devil’s advocate throughout.
On the other hand, BJP was on the rise for the last five years, notwithstanding some losses that occurred. Yet, in a surprising move, the BJP conceded many seats to Shiv Sena to contest only to find in the present quagmire. Why did the BJP allow Sena to contest in more seats than what they should rightly get? Why did BJP fail to prevent Sena from acting like opposition for five long years? No answers, at least not clear ones.
Typical of any Indian organization or person, after the win in 2014, BJP tried to expand. Expanding its footprint is not wrong. That was expected. It was the way they tried to expand that has serious ramifications. The unpredictability of BJP has increased. While this can be good with voters, this may not be the correct strategy to behave with friends.
First, consider Tamil Nadu, a state where BJP had no footprint. It was an open secret that Narendra Modi and Jayalalithaa had a great working relationship. In her last days, the presence of BJP in the political affairs was so glaring, genuine Jaya’s followers would have moved away from BJP. First, BJP placed Jayalalithaa, who was in a vegetable state in the hands of Sasikala, who was not favored by Jaya’s admirers. Later BJP allowed the party to remove Jaya’s nominee and get someone else to take over. Six months after Jaya’s demise it was clear that the present state government is there only to complete its term with no expectations to return. And, it was BJP that muddled waters of AIADMK. Even if central leadership of the party listened to its state leaders, they have only themselves to blame, because BJP state leadership never really has grasped the way Tamil Nadu votes. If your adviser is a loser, there are more chances that you too would be one.
It is not that BJP did not have the time or reason to address the grievances of Shiv Sena.
As BJP was winning even in the North East, it tried to get a foothold in the South. One of NDA’s staunchest allies was Chandrababu Naidu, who was a great administrator – but politically naïve. By not acceding to the constitutionally valid request of granting “Special Status” to the newly carved Andhra Pradesh, BJP made him look like a hapless person in front of his voters. Of course, BJP has a reason to do it. Nitish Kumar was there seeking the same wish Naidu was asking. But the request Naidu made was mandated by the parliament, albeit in the previous tenure. It was up to BJP to handle Bihar, isolated from the happenings in AP.
Meanwhile, BJP tried hard to get Nitish Kumar back into its fold – who severed ties just because of Narendra Modi. And, after all the swings in the heartland of North India, this alliance is in shambles. Though Nitish was highly uncomfortable being in the alliance with RJD and Congress, there really was no need for BJP to get into power in the state. Even as they share power with JD(U), they are minor partners and Nitish ridicules them continuously. For winning parliament elections, BJP doesn’t need JD(U). By 2019, despite remaining the prime leader in Bihar, Nitish is a liability to BJP. Still, BJP goes along with him.
As BJP was trying to grow at the expense of its friends and allies, the wary Shiv Sena’s apprehensions grew manifold. That was the reason why its mouthpiece Samna was highly critical of the party. Even up to just before the alliance was declared for 2019 general elections, even Uddhav Thackeray was taking potshots at Modi and BJP. Not only its opponents, but even friends are wary of BJP. Why BJP failed to address this is a million-dollar question. It is not that BJP did not have the time or reason to address the grievances of Shiv Sena. All these issues could have been sorted out in one sitting if both parties are open to speaking openly. Considering the way Sena treated BJP for five years, it was really surprising that the BJP consented for alliance but they choose to not only ally but gave more seats to Sena. Why?
One reason was the alliance was the only remaining emblem of consolidating the likeminded allies. The other being overconfidence – of winning a majority on its own. Did BJP think they would win all the seats they contested? Apparently so. This decision might have been based on intelligence inputs. If so, it is time BJP checks who are the foot soldiers and compilers of these inputs. Another factor BJP might have considered was the consolidation of “Anti-BJP” votes as Congress and NCP would be allying with tacit support from MNS, for whatever it’s worth. One may recall the four corner contest had split votes into many directions pushing BJP to the top. The combined vote share of INC & NCP was a threat to BJP and SS, had they contested separately. So, the alliance was necessary. But, giving away more seats to Sena than what they deserved? Can this be explained by anyone in BJP? Maybe not.
The problem lies in the way Shiv Sena insulted BJP continuously by playing the opposition while sharing power. One may consider Sena was a bad ally. But in politics, there are no good and bad allies. If a good ally like CBN was treated shabbily (many BJP supporters – including those who went to Rajya Sabha just because of Naidu’s help were openly celebrating the comments of CBN on parting ways with BJP), there is no guarantee how Shiv Sena will be treated.
In fact, the main reason why Shiv Sena criticized BJP stems from the insecurity BJP instilled in the minds of Sena leaders. Shiv Sena realized its limitations by the end of 2014 itself. It was perhaps the greatest humiliation for the party – not that Shiv Sena ever was a regional superpower, but still. Things could have been settled had BJP tried to be a bit magnanimous and tried to cement the ties. But, it didn’t happen. Even in the BMC elections, the most vital one for the survival of SS, both parties contested separately – confirming the alliance in the Assembly was nothing but a marriage of convenience.
After realizing they have no other way to win Maharashtra Assembly, but to ally with SS, BJP forged the alliance and conceded partially to the demand of Shiv Sena. Now, with BJP seats reducing further Shiv Sena is trying to regain the lost ground. To be frank, the post of Chief Minister for Aditya Thackeray is nothing but a symbolic one for the Sena. This is a chance for the Shiv Sena to exhibit to its cadre that is now spread across all parties that the Thackeray family and Shiv Sena remain the most powerful in the state.
Meanwhile, the future of Devendra Fadnavis, a gentleman politician hangs in balance. Of course, if BJP fails to form a government, he will be accommodated at the Centre as the party is short of quality manpower at all levels. But, again this raises another question. Is BJP promoting not-so-strong state leaders?
History may blame Jai Chand to be a turncoat and a traitor – but he had his own reasons to do so.
Over time, constructive criticism has disappeared into the party. This was for two reasons. Except for Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh, there were no other leaders who ruled their states on their own. Everyone needed Modi to win and they realized it. If someone tried to ignore, they were made to realize the new order. So in the states of Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan BJP tasted landslide victory in general elections but failed to win Assembly elections. Three coincidences too many…
Here, one may recall how the valorous Prithvi Raj Chouhan fared in his battles. Yes, he became an icon of India’s resistance before medieval times. But, a look at his history would explain why he failed. He eloped with the daughter of Jay Chand and had fought many wars with other rulers of India. When his valor was not sufficient to win the external enemy none supported him. History may blame Jay Chand to be a turncoat and a traitor – but he had his own reasons to do so. If Shiv Sena forms the government with the support of Congress and NCP, they will squarely blame BJP for such eventuality. Sanjay Raut is an expert in explaining the unexplainable.
One more thing BJP should learn from Prithvi Raj is how not to forgive defeated enemies. He won over Muhammad of Ghor but allowed him to leave. Had the Muhammad of Ghor was punished after the first or second win by Prithvi Raj, the Indian history might have been different. However, the point here is will BJP learn anything from the late King? Or, just let the history repeat itself?
Notwithstanding whatever arrangement both allies may come to, the question was how they ended up in such a situation.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.