Mumbai, Oct 13: The resentment between ruling partners Shiv Sena and BJP is escalating as their tenure moves ahead. The three-decade old alliance based on the mutual agenda of Hindutva is on the brink of breaking. According to sources close to Matoshree (headquarters of Thackeray clan), serious discussion were undertaken within the inner circles of the party with many Shiv Sainiks opining to split apart from the BJP.
According to a senior Shiv Sena leader, “Party supremo Uddhav Thackeray is likely to ask his legislators to quit. We are quite firm on walking away from the BJP-led government.” The decision, although seems to be triggered by the controversy surrounding former Pakistan minister Khurshid Kasuri’s book launch in Mumbai, it is actually a culmination of a series of events which has created an existential fear within the far-right political outfit.
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There is a strong-feeling within the grass-root activists of Shiv Sena and the party ideologues that they could only improve their prospects by working as a fiery opposition rather than playing second fiddle to BJP. This is one of the reason why Shiv Sena has adopted an anti-establishment approach despite being a member of the National Democratic Alliance in the state and Centre.
Sena’s firebrand theme of politics requires free-space for its activists to undertake tasks which are beyond the constitution. Since BJP is now the bigger brother within the alliance and has replaced communalism with development as its primary agenda, the activities of Sena are severely restricted being a part of the government.
In order to alienate itself from BJP and maintain itself as the true protectors of Marathi Manoos, the following occasions were used by Sena to mark its dissent:
Refusing to form pre-poll alliance: Before the assembly elections in 2014, Shiv Sena feared that it may cease to exist as the distinct political force of Maharashtra if it chooses to ride beneath the Modi wave. Despite repeated requests from BJP’s central leadership, it took the ambitious decision of contesting independently.
Allegations of inadequate representation: Following the legislative polls, it tied up with the BJP. However, the alliance was more sort of a compromise rather than an mutual tie-up. Upon joining the coalition, Sena began complaining that its representation in the cabinet is lower compared to BJP leaders. Although, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis included a number of Sena legislators in his cabinet, important portfolios were allotted to senior leaders of the BJP.
Hindutva: Shiv Sena was keen from beginning to portray itself as the real champion of the Hindutva cause within the saffron alliance. To appease fundamentalists and conservative members of the majoritarian community, Sena used its mouthpiece Saamna to unleash venom against the minorities.
Their extreme views drew criticsm even from the ally BJP who left no stone unturned to distance themselves from the contentious opinions of Sena. Senior BJP leader Eknath Khadse slammed Sena when the latter opined to strip Muslims of their voting rights. “We are absolutely against such divisive statements and do not endorse it,” he said.
Attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni, protest against Ghulam Ali’s concert, Kasuri’s book launch was a calculated approach to emerge as the true ultra-nationalist forces.
Marathi Manoos: After competing with MNS for the representation of Marathis, Shiv Sena aims to consolidate its vote bank and completely rely on the ‘sons of soil’ as its exclusive electoral bloc. Alleging the BJP of being pro-Gujrati, agitating against the ban of meat during Jain festival Paryushan and supporting the amendment within Maharashtra RTO which would allow only Marathi-speakers to obtain a license for driving auto-rikshaw; were some of the steps undertaken by the regional outfit to appease the Marathi voters.
Joining anti-Modi chorus: Shiv Sena has not refrained from siding with the opposition and taking shots at Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On the contentious Land Acquisition Act introduced by the NDA government, Sena did not shy away from calling it anti-farmer. Time and again, party chief Uddhav Thackeray chose to attack Modi through his editorials in Saamna, where he questioned Modi’s poll plank of Acche Din, Vikaas, Black Money, job creation, etc. On BJP’s resounding defeat in Delhi assembly elections, Uddhav wrote: “Arvind Kejriwal is the clear choice of people of Delhi. I think Narendra Modi should take responsibility of defeat.”
The intention of Shiv Sena is clear: Sooner or later, it would split from the ruling regime with the intention of reclaiming its lost dominance in Maharashtra. Politics of confrontation is strategically used to once again turn the state as its bastion. Would Sena succeed?