The Shiv Sena has intensified its attack against the Modi government’s petrol price hike and inflation policies at the Centre. The party, however, is unlikely to walk out of the coalition government led by Devendra Fadnavis in Maharashtra. This is evident as Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray has maintained a studied silence on his party’s relationship with the BJP. Thackeray has let the second rung leaders to make noises and slam the BJP.
In the last three years, the Sena and BJP relationship can best be described as marriage of convenience and compulsion driven by power play. Yet, what has kept the alliance intact is personal rapport between Fadnavis and Thackeray, and pragmatic politics which allows adequate share in power to Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. Out of the total 39 council of minister, Shiv Sena is represented with 12 ministers.
Though the BJP leadership knows that Sena is the best bet and most suitable partner when it comes to ruling Maharashtra, the party has plan B in place, in case the Sena pulls out of the alliance. The BJP has 122 seats in the 288-seat state assembly. The party can rope in 23 MLAs from smaller parties and independents to attain the magic mark of 145.
The Shiv Sena leaders on Tuesday indicated that they would evolve their political road-map after Dussera (October 30), which coincides with BJP’s decision on inducting senior Congress leader Narayan Rane into the party fold.
The Shiv Sena’s ultimatum to BJP is perceived as an arm-twisting tactic to abort Rane’s entry in the BJP. The Shiv Sena, which has a stronghold in coastal Konkan belt of Maharashtra, fears their political clout would be undermined if Rane joins BJP. Over the years, the Shiv Sena which held political might in Konkan, Thane, Mumbai and Raigad, has been facing a serious challenge from BJP.
Thackeray has exercised caution against taking any extreme decision fearing it would lead to split in the Shiv Sena. This is for the first time the Sena leadership finds itself battling serious in-house problems. Their second rung leaders have been vocal against the ‘poor performance’ of Sena cabinet ministers. The sainiks have started questioning the role and performance of their established leaders in party and government. Whereas, ministers complain they have no voice in the government.
The BJP’s expansion in the state has set the Sena grassroots leaders worried and they have engaged in the blame game against the ministers. The developments point to increasing unrest within the Sena.
Although assembly and parliament elections are scheduled in 2019, Shiv Sena, while continuing in the BJP government, wants to expand its opposition space to consolidate its base in the state.
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