The clashes between the two ruling parties in Maharashtra, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena have risen to another peak. This constant infighting between the two parties on who is the better claimant of the Hindutva bastion in the region has become a daily affair in Maharashtra these days.
The story starts before the state assembly elections of 2014. Both the parties decided to contest the elections separately when division of seats became impossible as both the parties wanted to contest most of the seats. After the demise of Shiv Sena’s quasi-fascist leader Bal Thackeray, not many in BJP wanted to take Shiv Sena seriously anymore. BJP’s vision of ‘100% BJP’ versus Shiv Sena’s ‘Mission Majority’ resulted in two parties contesting on their own, which happened for the first time in last 25 years. During the elections, both the parties criticized each other more than they did of Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the then ruling parties. It was obvious as Congress was still in shock of brutal loss in Lok Sabha elections and NCP leaders including Ajit Pawar, the then Deputy CM were defamed because of Rs. 80,000 Cr. irrigation scam. Their days in government was doomed.
Election resulted in BJP winning 122 seats and Shiv Sena 63. Of course, BJP had won more seats than the Shiv Sena but had failed to achieve a simple majority and only option to form a stable Govt. was an alliance of these two parties. BJP CM candidate Devendra Fadanvis was very keen to form alliance with Shiv Sena for stability of govt. But, other people in BJP including Narendra Modi and Amit Shah were rumoured not to be keen enough. The clashes for important ministries resulted in BJP single handedly forming the Govt. with external support of NCP, the party they criticized the most when BJP was in opposition (Modi had infamously called NCP as Naturally Corrupt Party!). Finally, Shiv Sena participated in the Govt. after one and half months with important ministries kept in the hands of BJP.
Uddhav Thackeray, leader of Shiv Sena barely missed an opportunity ever since to criticize its senior partner on many issues such farmer distress etc. These series of statements and counters has continued since November’14 from both the sides.
BJP-Shiv Sena’s Gutter Politics
The clashes came to the head recently when the two parties stood against each other over Pakistani Gazal Singer Gulam Ali’s Concert in Mumbai. It has been Shiv Sena’s typical stand of opposing any talks with Pakistan giving the deaths of Indian soldiers at the Indo-Pak border as an excuse. Shiv Sena’s agitation against the concert resulted in organizers cancelling the program and upsetting BJP’s calculations.
Although unable to swallow the bitter taste of its own medicine, BJP leaders in both the state and center had to give clarifications that they wanted to continue peace talks with Pakistan and these incidents could prove major obstacles in that process. Shiv Sena, whose entire existence hinges upon spreading hatred against minorities, migrants etc., and the fear of losing electorate appeal to the more assertive BJP/ RSS, has no other option but to resort to its good old gundagiri politics that it is famous for.
And the opportunity for this came before the press conference on the launch of former Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s book ‘Neither a Hawk, Nor a Dove’, Shiv Sena inked the face of the pro-RSS intellectual Sudheendra Kulkarni, one of the organizers and condemned the book launch. Although no untoward incident took place during the conference itself, but the relationship between the two parties has been even more rocky ever since.
Other lesser known recent clashes include BJP not inviting Uddhav Thackeray for the foundation ceremony of a memorial for Dr. B. R. Ambedkar in Mumbai. This resulted resulted in Shiv Sena MPs boycotting the program. Many ministers in the state Govt. were kept aside for inauguration of Dr. Ambedkar’s Memorial in London recently. It would have been ironic indeed to see the two parties bitterly opposed to all the ideals that Dr. Ambedkar stood for cynically singing praises in his name.
Just few weeks ago, municipal corporation elections were to take place in few of the major cities in Maharashtra and both the parties decided to contest separately. On most of the places, BJP could increase the number of seats many fold but could not touch the magical numbers which helped Congress-NCP to seize power. In Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation, CM Devendra Fadanvis proposed 6500 Cr. Package for Smart City project just before the elections but people voted in favour of Shiv Sena making it the largest party. Now, both parties have decided to ally as Shiv Sena lacked 9 seats for majority.
The clashes have been more than what former ruling parties have had in their last five years total. The cabinet expansion is going to take place next month. It is rumoured that BJP will give Sena only two state ministries. This also is going to create new clashes. Many Political analysts are predicting state elections in next two years. But BJP can still rely on NCP for outside support in case Sena decides to take the plunge.
Real Issues on the Back Burner
Political rivalries aside, all the real issues on the ground such as price rise, unemployment, lack of people centric development, farmer distress, high petrol prices, corruption among others, have received no attention from the state government or used for the consequent blame game. Working people of Maharashtra had given a fractured mandate in the last year elections as they saw no real alternative between the major parties in the region.
The wait for ‘acche din’ just got longer…….