Placating Sena a tough task for Modi-Shah
Amid speculation that the Lok Sabha election and the Maharashtra Assembly polls will be held simultaneously, the question is whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi would placate the Shiv Sena and stitch up an alliance when the race is getting tighter in the state.
The Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party have already joined hands for the elections.
The visit by election expert and Janata Dal (United) Vice President Prashant Kishor to Matoshree, the residence of Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, in Mumbai last week, has stirred much interest amid suggestions from the Sena that this was a mission from BJP President Amit Shah.
But the BJP dismissed the speculation. A senior Union minister made it plain that the ties between the BJP and the Sena were old and did not need any broker to mend them.
Inquiries revealed this was not Kishor’s first visit to Matoshree. It, however, assumed importance as several Sena MPs as also party leaders were present during his meeting. Kishor’s tweet after the meeting gave more than a hint that he was no mediator but a well-wisher in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). “Thank you for your warm hospitality Uddhav ji and @AUThackeray. As part of NDA, we look forward to joining forces with you in Maharashtra to help secure victory ... ,” he tweeted.
The faithful are saying that the NDA’s seat-sharing deal in Bihar suggested two things:
One, that the BJP is now more willing to accommodate allies; and two, it augurs well for the future of the BJP-Sena alliance in Maharashtra.
But, this is easier said than done. All is not well between the BJP and the Sena. This came to the fore again in the Lok Sabha last week when Sena representative Anand Adsul pulled out all the punches to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP dispensation on a variety of issues, including demonetisation.
The Sena has been insisting on restoration of the ‘elder brother’ status in the alliance. This means that it wants to lead the government in the state after the Assembly polls if the combine comes to power.
But, Devendra Fadnavis, who has emerged as a leader in his own right in the last over four years, has at least twice asserted that he will continue as chief minister after winning the Assembly polls. The seatsharing talks were held some time back between the chief minister and Thackeray.
The Sena, in a resolution at its national executive meeting a year ago, had decided that it would contest all future elections on its own. But there have been concerns within the Sena, especially among its MPs and MLAs, over going it alone. With this, Thackeray has painted himself into a corner and therefore, needs more than a face-saver in the form of an honourable seat-sharing deal that gives more to the Sena.
The BJP, on the other hand, is maintaining a deafening silence on the alliance issue as also the constant barbs and attacks from the Sena. Its refrain is that it is confident that being old Hindutva allies, the alliance will remain intact.
Opposition parties like the Congress and the NCP feel that the BJP and the Sena have perfected the art of match-fixing with one playing the role of the ‘government’ and other ‘opposition’ so as to occupy a greater political space at their cost.
After giving a ‘liberal’ deal to Nitish Kumar in Bihar in which the BJP has surrendered some of the seats won by it to the JD-U, the key question is whether Modi-Shah would mollify Thackeray with a similar package for the cause of an alliance in Maharashtra.
Thackeray has been treading cautiously on the alliance issue apprehending that the BJP might take away its several sitting MPs and MLAs if he were to part ways.
"The tiger will ultimately turn out to be a paper tiger," say Sena detractors amid the growing impression that a decision on the alliance issue could test the patience of all concerned.
An NDA leader, who does not belong to either the BJP or the Sena, said that both the allies needed to realise that 2019 is neither 2009 nor 2014, and therefore, the alliance issue needed to be resolved through equal distribution of seats, leaving aside the ‘elder brother’ demand. If the Sena and the BJP fail to come together, it is advantage Congress-NCP in Maharashtra, said the NDA leader.
If the Shiv Sena and the BJP fail to come together, it is advantage Congress-NCP in Maharashtra
Uddhav Thackeray wants the BJP to restore the ‘elder brother’ status to Shiv Sena in Mahrashtra