The Shiv Sena and BJP are contesting the Maharashtra Assembly polls in alliance, but the campaign unfolding in Konkan region has revealed their uneasy relationship, with the allies fighting each other instead of candidates of the Opposition in several seats.
At Kankavli seat in Sindhudurg district, the BJP has fielded sitting MLA Nitesh Rane, who recently left the Congress and joined BJP.
The Sena has been at loggerheads with Nitesh’s father Narayan Rane, who left Sena to join the Congress in 2005.
Sources in Sena said the top leadership and local cadres believe that the BJP insulted them by fielding Nitesh. “Members of the Rane family, which tried to finish Sena in the region, recently made derogatory remarks against Sena patriarch Balasaheb [Thackeray] and [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi. By inducting him and giving him a ticket, the BJP has insulted their leader and our leader. So, there is anger among Shiv Sainiks and the party has fielded a candidate in Kankavli,” said a Sena leader.
With the Sena putting up a candidate against Nitesh, BJP leaders have filed nominations as Independents in Kudal and Sawantwadi segments. BJP leader Rajan Teli is contesting against Sena candidate Deepak Kesarkar, Minister of State for Home, in Sawantwadi. In Kudal, BJP leader Ranjit Desai is up against the Sena’s Vaibhav Naik.
An uneasy relationship
Even if the Shiv Sena and BJP are in an alliance in the state, the fight between the two allies is to have the upper hand in state politics. The fights in the Konkan region are symbolic of the uneasy relationship between the two parties. Also, their cadres don’t seem to have adjusted well with the alliance formula.
BJP leaders maintain that it was Sena which “broke the alliance” by fielding a candidate against Nitesh in Kankavli.
“There was no need for Sena to field a candidate against BJP’s official candidate. This has led to BJP leaders contesting against Sena candidates in two other constituencies in the district,” said a BJP leader. “The Sena has started it and we will finish it,” said the leader.
Sena leaders described the BJP leaders contesting as Independents as an “overreaction” to the developments in Kankavli.
“The entire state knows about the issue we have with Rane, but still the BJP is supporting the Independents against the Sena in Kudal and Sawantwadi,” said a leader.
According to Sena leaders, the BJP’s move to induct Nitesh Rane is an attempt to make inroads into the Sena’s Konkan bastion, but they are confident that this tactic will fail.
“He (Nitesh) is a non-entity. So, the BJP’s base will be destroyed here. It will not gain anything,” said another Sena leader.
Sena and BJP rebels are also slugging it out in other constituencies in the Konkan region which fall in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, such as Kalyan West and Kalyan East in Thane and Boisar in Palghar.
A senior Sena leader said the attempts to pacify rebels have not yielded any result. “Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has publicly apologised for not being able to get the seats from the BJP for Sena and has appealed to party cadres to work for the alliance candidate but it has not yielded results. Local leaders are refusing to budge,” said a Sena leader, adding that there is rebellion in parts of Marathwada and western Maharashtra too.