Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana never fails to let go off any chance to attack ruling partner BJP for its perceived failures. However, for a party that sees itself as a dominant regional force, the Shiv Sena, over the past two years, has been facing the hard political reality that in the coming few years, it may have to play the second fiddle to the BJP, which has been growing in strength in the state.
Maharashtra’s elections, which saw the BJP, Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP jostling for space, have over the past two years turned into a race between the BJP and the Sena, being the two dominant players.
However, the distance between the two parties in terms of political as well as electoral clout is stark. There are 27 municipal corporations in Maharashtra of which 18 went to polls after the BJP attained power at the Centre and in Maharashtra. Post 2014, of the 2,050 seats in these 18 corporations the BJP has won a massive 653 seats. The Sena stands at a distant second with 369 seats. The domination of the BJP has been so strong that of these 18 corporations it controls a dozen.
Once a junior ally of the Sena, the BJP has left its partner far behind. The Sena is increasingly being forced to play the second fiddle to the BJP. “We only have branches in Mumbai and Thane,” a whatsapp forward that went viral a few months back summed up the Sena’s quandary in Maharashtra. “If you see other states, the BJP has grown on the back of regional parties to subsequently consume them and become the dominant force. It happened with the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party in Goa as well as the Asom Gana Parishad in Assam. The Sena may choose to fight the BJP in Maharashtra but as of now, the gap between the two is too big to fill quickly,” a senior Shiv Sena leader said.
In spite of the gloom a BJP win spreads in the Sena, certain sections in the party still believe they can beat the BJP at its own game. “Our party president has made it clear that we will fight all subsequent elections on our own. Yes we did lose but even the Marathas lost in Panipat and they subsequently went on to win Delhi,” Maharashtra Transport Minister and senior Shiv Sena leader Diwakar Raote said.
While the party chooses to be belligerent, all it can do now is respect the public sentiment which has as of now given a bigger mandate to the BJP. Political analysts believe that Uddhav Thackeray has a lot of work to do before he joins the ranks of regional satraps who dominate their states. Senior BJP leader Kirit Somaiyya said: “It’s high time the Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray shed his arrogance and come to terms with reality.”