The settling of the row over Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and the manner in which the issue was handled has stoked fears within the Shiv Sena of the BJP cosying up to the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena to undermine its alliance partner in the run-up to local bodies’ polls in the state.
The core team of the Shiv Sena is planning to hold a meeting to evolve its own strategy to ‘expose’ the MNS agitation, sources said. A senior minister said, “The Sena-BJP are natural allies, sharing power both at the state and the Centre. This development highlight how the MNS, after raising an issue, goes for immediate settlement.”
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The Sena’s worst fear is a revival of the MNS ahead of the 2017 BMC polls. Strengthening of the MNS does not auger well for the Sena in the battle for the 26 per cent Maharashtrian vote bank in Mumbai. The Fadnavis-Raj Thackeray meeting Saturday coincided with Sena president Uddhav Thackeray announcing an alliance with former RSS leader Subash Velingkar to contest the Goa assembly elections. The Sena is playing on the emotive plank of Marathi-Konkani to undermine the ruling BJP in Goa.
Although the BJP has dismissed the Sena’s ambitions in Goa, it believes that if the allies contest separately, they will have to explore all options. A covert BJP-MNS alliance may follow the lines of the political strategy earlier adopted by Congress chief ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh and Ashok Chavan. Political observer Abhay Deshpande said, “The Congress always played the MNS against the Sena. In the 2009 elections, the Congress swept all six parliament seats because of this strategy of divide-and-rule.”
On its part, the MNS, which has hardly made a dent electorally in the last two years, views the BMC elections as a fresh opportunity to reaffirm its political identity.
Sensing that the government would crack the whip against those taking to street violence, the MNS could not have stretched the agitation against Ae Dil Hai Mushkil beyond a point. And they feared that if prolonged, it would lead to a fiasco, as had happened in the case of Shiv Sena protesting half-heartedly against My Name Is Khan, also by Karan Johar. The calling-off of the agitation by the MNS appears to have led to some degree of bonding between the BJP and the MNS.
Sources in the MNS said, “We understand that the political mileage for the surgical strikes would go to the BJP. But our aim was to evoke local sentiments through anti-Pakistani-actor agitation, which has helped us bounce back on the state political board.”