A delegation of 23 Shiv Sena leaders met Governor C Vidyasagar Rao on Thursday and handed over a petition seeking dismissal of the BJP government, which the party claimed was “unconstitutional”. A section of the top leadership, however, continues to hope for a rapprochement with the former ally and is reportedly still keeping lines of communication open with the central leadership of the party.
The party appears to be have been caught in two minds over the role it is supposed to play in the present political dispensation. The decision to approach the Governor came after the Sena, in spite of being the main Opposition party, was forced to accede space to the Congress whose legislators were in the forefront of undertaking an agitation against the BJP, leading to five of their MLAs being suspended.
Sena leaders acknowledged in private that even though the grassroot workers of the Sena were angry with the BJP it was difficult for party leaders to position themselves as opponents of the ruling party.
“In politics, pragmatism should rule over emotions. The rank and file is hurt but as a party we stand to lose more by staying out. Our support base is similar. It will be difficult for us to project ourselves as ideological opponents of the BJP the way the Congress can. We are hoping that better sense prevails on both sides,” said a three-time MLA.
The Sena is also afraid that the confrontation in the state could affect its stranglehold on the country’s biggest urban local body — the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. The Sena rules the BMC in association with the BJP and a split would mean the party would have to face the BJP in the corporation elections too.
“When you split, you need to pay alimony and paying that could be ruinous for us in Mumbai,” a senior Sena leader said.
The leaders claimed that the party was still hopeful of some understanding with the BJP, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi playing the mediator. The party is not planning to take a decision on its association with the NDA in the near future and has suggested that a decision on Anant Geete continuing as a Union minister would be taken only on Modi’s return to the country.
Former Rajya Sabha MP from the Shiv Sena Bharat Kumar Raut has said the party’s behaviour during the vote of confidence was intriguing and appeared scripted. “A section of the Shiv Sena is keen that the party joins the government and the BJP too seems to be responding to these overtures,” he said.
Sena leaders, however, claimed that the party had no plans to join the government and said a decision on the alliances in the BMC and the Thane Municipal Corporation would be taken soon.
“The Shiv Sena will play a masterstroke in the coming few days. After that, everything will get cleared,” said party MP Sanjay Raut.
The Sena, meanwhile, plans to continue to play the role of an aggressive Opposition party. In its petition to Governor Rao, the party has raised question about the size of the present cabinet, which Sena claims is not as per the provisions of the law. It has also stated that the voice vote through which the government claimed majority was also illegal as the Speaker never called for the “not in favour” vote.
“As per law, the government should have at least 12 cabinet members. However, its present strength, including the chief minister, is only 10. This raises the question on the Constitutional validity of the government,” said Leader of the Opposition Eknath Shinde.
In its petition, the Sena also claimed that a voice vote was not legal in the prevalent circumstances as per the Supreme Court’s directives.