Even as the BJP and Shiv Sena engaged in a bitter war of words over electoral politics, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis Tuesday convened a marathon meeting with Health Minister Deepak Sawant of the Shiv Sena at the state government headquarters, the Mantralaya.
At the end of the two-and-half-hour review meeting, a list of decisions taken by the government was made public, and a picture of Fadnavis discussing health policies with Sawant and top bureaucrats was released. Meanwhile, at the Sena headquarters at Dadar and the BJP headquarters at Nariman Point, differences between the parties were aired throughout the day.
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The paradox signalled a bitter electoral battle ahead, though some Sena leaders saw no imminent withdrawal of support to the Fadnavis government.
Political managers of the Sena and the BJP admitted that political bitterness would multiply in the run up to Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation polls. Amid signs that the BJP and Sena are likely to contest separately for the 122 seats in the KDMC elections on November 1, the question doing the rounds was, would political differences destablise the Fadnavis government?
Shiv Sena insiders revealed to The Indian Express, “We are not going to withdraw support to the Fadnavis government.” They, however, demanded greater participation and policy making in the government. BJP Minister for Food and Civil Supplies Girish Bapat said, “The BJP is big brother. And we would certainly address the concerns of Sena.”
Late evening, cabinet ministers of the Sena confided that the alliance was intact and they would certainly participate in the cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam of the Sena dismissed differences in the government as “rumours”. He said, “It is not true that Sena has decided to withdraw support to the government.”
According to BJP officials, “If Sena were to withdraw, it could split their party. As nobody is willing to go for elections in such a short span.” They claimed that BJP with 122 seats in the assembly enjoys support of eight independents taking their tally to 130. They would require just 15 MLAs to reach the needed 145 seats out of the 288 in the assembly. They have also chalked out plans, if Sena were to withdraw support.
Out of 30 cabinet ministers in the Fadnavis government, 10 belong to the Shiv Sena.
The Sena wants a greater role for minister of states. They often complain that senior cabinet ministers of the BJP do not delegate adequate work to junior ministers. The Sena cabinet ministers want a greater role in policy making.
BJP ministers said that the Sena not having its way in KDMC seat sharing formula was the cause of their anti-Pakistan agression. The BJP, also dismissed the Sena complaint of not getting a “respectable invitation” for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s event in Mumbai as a lame excuse.
The BJP MLA Ram Kadam said, “By skipping Dr B R Ambedkar’s bhoomi pujan for memorial at Indu Mills, Sena has displayed its disrespect for dalits. Why should they bring ego for Ambedkar’s cause?” BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari recalled how the late Bal Thackeray refused to take calls from Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. On one occasion, he kept former home minister L K Advani waiting outside Matoshree.
According to Ram Kadam, “Our chief minister Devendra Fadnavis displayed modesty and humility. He sent senior minister Prakash Mehta to invite Uddhav Thackeray for Modi’s rally at BKC and Indu Mills bhoomi pujan. By skipping the event Sena displayed