Shiv Sena is not prepared to reconsider its attitude, became clear during the anti-trust motion that opposition parties brought against the Modi regime a few days ago in the Lok Sabha.
It’s about time the Bharatiya Janata Party shed its ambivalence on continuing with its alliance with the Shiv Sena. This should have happened earlier, but after Sena’s refusal to vote in favour of the Modi Government during the anti-trust motion, there remains no justification for the BJP to maintain vagueness. The party risks a dent in its image if it continues to be soft on its so-called ally.
The NCP had then offered outside support to the BJP if the latter wished to form a Government without aligning with the Shiv Sena
There are unconfirmed reports in a section of the media that the BJP has finally decided to dump the Sena, and that the Nationalist Congress Party has decided to back the Sena in Maharashtra. It this indeed materialises, then the BJP will be rid of the shackles in the State. The question is: What happens to the tie-up that the NCP and the Congress are preparing for? Surely the Congress cannot be in a grouping which has the Shiv Sena. Or, will the Sena-NCP alliance be limited to Maharashtra even as the NCP aligns with the Congress at the national level?
For the BJP, the writing has been on the wall for some time now. The Shiv Sena had categorically announced weeks ago that it would not be aligned with the BJP-led NDA in the coming Lok Sabha election. And yet we have had senior central BJP leaders refusing to accept the reality. This despite the fact that a majority of party leaders and workers in Maharashtra are confident of doing well after a break with the Sena. It is also despite the other fact that even before the Sena announced the parting of ways at the later date, its leaders had been constantly issuing statements that belittled not just the BJP but also its senior leadership including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Thus, we have a situation where a regional party is pummelling its bigger, national partner even as the latter remains in a placatory mode. The tolerance demonstrated by the BJP has been inexplicable. The BJP is the larger party not just nationally but also in Maharashtra. It won more seats than the Shiv Sena in the Lok Sabha and the State Assembly. It may be recalled that following a hung Assembly after the last poll, the BJP had emerged as the single largest party, having contested against the Sena, besides the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). The NCP had then offered outside support to the BJP if the latter wished to form a Government without aligning with the Shiv Sena. Had the BJP accepted that offer, it would have killed two birds with one stone: Weaned away the NCP from the Congress camp and sidelined the Sena in the State.
The Shiv Sena remains in the NDA, both at the Centre and in the State. Neither is it pulling out nor is the BJP ready to pull the plug
But the BJP did not take the NCP’s offer for two reasons. The first was that it felt ideologically more comfortable with the Shiv Sena which had been its oldest ally. The second was the negative image the NCP then had in the wake of corruption charges some of its senior leaders faced. Besides, realising that it was confronted with the possibility of being left out, the Shiv Sena too had begun to send out feelers to the BJP. When the pact eventually happened, it was believed that the past had been buried.
It was a misreading of the situation. The Sena never reconciled to the fact that for the first time in its decades-old association with the BJP, the national party was the dominant entity in the State. It decided to go belligerent to counter that impression. Thus, whether in the State Government where it is a junior partner in the Government or at the Centre where it got only nominal representation, the Shiv Sena continued to snipe at the BJP. From the BJP’s perspective, the Sena crossed limits when it began to target the Prime Minister himself — taking potshots at his Pakistan policy, his economic policy, his visits abroad to boost India’s image globally etc. It is pertinent to note here that Sena’s problem with Narendra Modi came to be expressed even before he became the Prime Minister; when Modi was declared the BJP’s prime ministerial face in the run-up to the 2014 election, the Sena had let it be known that its founder-leader Balasaheb Thackeray would have preferred Sushma Swaraj.
That the Sena is not prepared to reconsider its attitude, became clear during the anti-trust motion that opposition parties brought against the Modi regime a few days ago in the Lok Sabha. BJP president Amit Shah spoke to Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and sought the latter’s support. Despite this outreach, the Shiv Sena refused to back the Government, preferring to keep away from voting altogether. It should shatter the BJP’s hopes of a rapprochement. The sooner the BJP realises the futility of appeasing the Shiv Sena, the better it will be for the morale of its cadre in Maharashtra.
Meanwhile, the old farce continues to be played out. The Shiv Sena remains in the NDA, both at the Centre and in the State. Neither is it pulling out nor is the BJP ready to pull the plug. In Jammu & Kashmir, the BJP, even if reluctantly, snapped ties with the PDP on a number of issues. If it were to summon the similar courage and decide to end relations with the Shiv Sena on its own terms rather than have the alliance normally collapse on a date and time that the Sena decides, it could at least emerge on a high note. But then, there are those believe that the relationship can still be salvaged. The past experience does not offer solace, though.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.