Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray has already declared that his party will continue support to the BJP-led government in Maharashtra and at the Centre. However, the Sena has also made it amply clear that it would expect more participation in policy-making of the government. However, what remains unexplained is what exactly the Sena wants from BJP?
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has always maintained that every minister has been accorded powers sanctioned in the Constitution. And if ever anybody has any issues, he has always addressed the concerns.
Industries Minister Subash Desai of the Sena believes that what lacks is greater acceptability. The Sena wants more participation in the government. At present, out of 30 ministers in the government, BJP has 20 and Sena 10. The ratio was determined on the basis of the seats won in the 2014 assembly elections —BJP, 122, and Shiv Sena, 63.
However, the BJP admits that Sena deserves at least one more minister (independent rank) or at least two ministers of state in the Narendra Modi government. They are likely to be accomodated in the next cabinet expansion. In the last cabinet expansion, the Sena pulled out Anil Desai at the eleventh hour causing a major embarassment to the BJP. The Sena is also unhappy over the ‘insignificant’ portfolio of heavy industries given to Anant Geete at the Centre.
However, in the state, it has nothing to complain as it chose health, transport, industries, and environment portoflios. The only exception was home and finance, which the BJP refused to compromise on. However, the BJP may accommodate Sena in some important corporations (mahamandals) ahead. Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam has warned that the BJP government is stable in Maharashtra due to the Sena’s support. Junior Sena ministers in the cabinet complain that they should be given more important assignments by their BJP cabinet ministers. Notwithstanding these differences, which have been recurring for the last one year, the Sena has reaffirmed support to the BJP.
What is interesting to note is that there is not a single policy decision which Sena ministers have proposed before the cabinet and did not receive a consent. There is also not a single welfare scheme of the Sena which has been overlooked by the BJP.
On the other hand, Fadnavis has always taken along Desai on all important foreign tours to attract foreign direct investments.
This is a clear departure from the past when former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh never took former industries minister Ashok Chavan with him on foreign tours. Individually, Health Minister Deepak Sawant and Transport Minister Eknath Shinde have always received appointments on priority when it came to discussions on any subjects related to their departments.
According to political managers in both the BJP and the Sena, the crux of the problem is not ministers or power share. The Sena’s biggest challenge is to retain the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation in the 2017 elections at any cost.
The battle for Kalyan- Dombivali Municipal Corporation has already turned bitter with the Sena and the BJP engaged in a game of one-upmanship for the 122 seats. Interestingly, the BJP also appeared divided on the issue of alliance.
One section believes a lot would depend on how the opposition will evolve in 2017. “If the Congress-NCP gets strong, it would be sensible to have an alliance between the Sena and BJP and retain the hold in BMC,” said a leader. But hardliners in the BJP believe anti-incumbency against the Sena in the civic body could help them. “In assembly polls, we scored more than the Sena. Therefore, why lose the advantage of making inroads in the BMC ?”