As Mumbai, and Maharashtra, counted down to the mega battle of optics between the two Shiv Senas on Dussehra evening, one party played it absolutely cool: the BJP.
While it is the senior partner in the ruling alliance with the Eknath Shinde-led Sena, the BJP is not participating in its show of strength at the Bandra Kurla Complex’s MMRDA grounds. The Shinde Sena didn’t extend an invite to any BJP leader, and none was expected, BJP sources said.
“Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is in Nagpur. He had to attend the annual RSS Vijayadashmi Utsav,” a leader said, explaining the senior BJP leader’s absence from Mumbai Wednesday. Similarly, sources said, other BJP leaders too were busy with their Vijayadashmi celebrations.
Moreover, BJP leaders said, the Mumbai Dussehra rally is a Sena tradition and a purely party function – not a government event or an election campaign rally.
However, their moral support is fully with the Shinde Sena, the BJP leaders said; in their individual capacity, BJP leaders could help out the Shinde Sena if they wanted. Maharashtra party president Chandrashekhar Bawankule said, “Eknath Shinde is leading the real Shiv Sena. He is holding the Dussehra rally.”
Another, unsaid, reason is that the BJP wants to not be publicly caught up in the Sena’s internal differences. Letting the Uddhav and Shinde Senas slug it out might even work in the BJP’s favour, ahead of the crucial BMC polls. The Sena has been dominant in the corporation for long, and its appearance as a house divided would go in the BJP’s favour.
As a BJP vice-president, who did not wish to be named, noted: “For the first time, we are going to witness a divided Shiv Sena on Dussehra.”