MA­HA­RASH­TRA: SENA PLAYS HARD­BALL

Sens­ing the BJP’s des­per­a­tion to re-stitch a poll al­liance, Ud­dhav ups the ante and de­mands equal share in power

India Today - - STATES - By Ki­ran D. Tare

Shiv Sena’s Ud­dhav Thack­eray is play­ing his cards close to his chest when it comes to a pos­si­ble pre-poll al­liance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). While a des­per­ate BJP has ap­pealed to the Shiv Sena to join hands for the Hin­dutva cause, Thack­eray has his eye on some­thing else. If sources are to be be­lieved, he will agree to an al­liance if the BJP of­fers the Sena a 50 per cent share of the chief min­is­ter’s term in the of­fice.

The BJP, mean­while, has been try­ing to woo Thack­eray in var­i­ous ways. Chief Min­is­ter Deven­dra Fad­navis, on Jan­uary 23, handed over 2.5 acres of prime land in Mum­bai’s iconic Shivaji Park for a pro­posed me­mo­rial ded­i­cated to Thack­eray’s fa­ther and Shiv Sena founder Bal Thack­eray, along with a fund of Rs 100 crore al­lot­ted for the same. Ear­lier, Fad­navis had stayed the land ac­qui­si­tion for a con­tro­ver­sial chem­i­cal re­fin­ery pro­posed in Rat­na­giri district in view of the Shiv Sena’s ob­jec­tions. Fad­navis has also given his nod to a pro­posal by Aditya Thack­eray, Shiv Sena youth wing chief and Ud­dhav Thack­eray’s son, to re­vive Mum­bai’s nightlife. These steps have been taken to pacify the tiger, who has felt slighted by the BJP.

A source in the BJP says the party will not be able to win 23 of the state’s 48 Lok Sabha seats again and would go be­low 20 in the ab­sence of an al­liance. Shiv Sena too will come down to around five seats from its present 18. Be­ing the sec­ond most im­por­tant state in terms of the num­ber of Lok Sabha seats, Ma­ha­rash­tra will be im­por­tant for the BJP to re­tain power in Delhi.

At a func­tion in Nashik last month, Ma­ha­rash­tra wa­ter re­sources min­is­ter Girish Ma­ha­jan had bluntly told Thack­eray that with­out an al­liance, the Shiv Sena will win only four seats in the elec­tion. A Shiv Sena MP said that al­most all Shiv Sena MPs have told Thack­eray that he will face a tough time if the BJP is not on board.

Ma­ha­rash­tra rev­enue min­is­ter Chan­drakant Patil, a BJP ne­go­tia­tor, said there was no pos­si­bil­ity of the Lok Sabha and state assem­bly polls be­ing held si­mul­ta­ne­ously, but they have been asked to start reach­ing out to peo­ple in their var­i­ous con­stituen­cies. Fad­navis has asked the cadre to re­mind the masses of the gov­ern­ment’s achieve­ments. Ad­dress­ing the BJP of­fice-bear­ers in Jalna on Jan­uary 28, he said that the party wanted an al­liance with the Shiv Sena to strengthen the Hin­dutva cause and to pre­vent the par­ties who have looted the coun­try in the past from com­ing to power, but it does not mean that “we are help­less”. “We will take you on board if you wish or we will march alone,” he said in a mes­sage to Thack­eray.

Thack­eray told Shiv Sena MPs on Jan­uary 28 that he has not junked the idea of an al­liance, but the BJP needs to present a “re­spectable pro­posal”. Ac­cord­ing to a Shiv Sena MP, Thack­eray will not ac­cept any­thing that is hu­mil­i­at­ing for party work­ers. “We are hurt. I would like Naren­dra Modi to deal with us as he used to do be­fore he be­came the prime min­is­ter,” Thack­eray said.

Sources say that BJP chief Amit Shah will speak to Thack­eray about the al­liance if he sends his rep­re­sen­ta­tive at the Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance rally to be held on Fe­bru­ary 3 in Patna.

SHIV SENA IS WAIT­ING FOR A “RE­SPECTABLE PRO­POSAL” FROM THE BJP BE­FORE AGREE­ING TO AN AL­LIANCE

KU­NAL PATIL/GETTY IM­AGES

WILL THEY, WON’T THEY? Ma­ha­rash­tra chief min­is­ter Deven­dra Fad­navis with Shiv Sena chief Ud­dhav Thack­eray

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