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