Brotherhood unbound: On BJP-Shiv Sena tussle

Sena’s brinkmanship in talks with BJP is unlikely to fetch it dividends in Maharashtra

Updated - October 30, 2019 10:20 am IST

Published - October 30, 2019 12:02 am IST

The protracted bargaining for power sharing between two pre-poll allies, the BJP and the Shiv Sena, is holding up government formation in Maharashtra, despite their victory in the Assembly election. The irony is starker when compared to Haryana where a new government has been in place, though the State elected a hung Assembly. The BJP could easily cobble up a post-poll alliance in Haryana with regional outfit the JJP, but is unable to reach an agreement with the Sena, its oldest ally. The BJP and the Sena are closely aligned ideologically too, as the latter champions Hindutva more stridently than the former. However, transactional politics often trumps ideological affinity as a Sena leader appeared to suggest in his caustic comparison of the situations in the two States. In Haryana, the new Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala got a reprieve for his jailed father in exchange for joining hands with the BJP, the Sena leader suggested. The BJP could not pressure the Sena that way, he declared, upping the ante. Mr. Chautala retorted sharply, leading to an inter-State sparring between the two BJP allies. Devendra Fadnavis has meanwhile declared that he would remain Maharashtra Chief Minister for the entire five-year-tenure of the legislature, shutting the door on the Sena’s demand for the top post after two and a half years. Both parties met the Governor separately.

The Sena is possibly upping the ante in an attempt to drive the best bargain with the BJP, and the brinkmanship is unlikely to lead to a separation between the two. After all, the BJP has many allies, but the BJP is the only partner that the Sena could possibly get. The Maharashtra theatrics of both parties, however, signifies a weakening of the BJP and a ceiling for the style of the party’s current leadership. In 2014, the BJP dislodged the Sena as the leader of the alliance in the State, after contesting the Assembly election alone and cornering the latter into a post-poll partnership. Bolstered by its rising popularity, the BJP leadership had taken a dismissive attitude towards alliance politics in general and even humiliated several long-standing partners, including the Sena. It has even advertised its refusal to consult other parties — allies and the Opposition alike — on policy matters as a sign of strong leadership. That principle is on test in Maharashtra. The BJP could win only 105 Assembly seats, compared to 122 in 2014, increasing its dependence on the Sena. The Sena too won fewer than its tally five years ago, but has ended up with higher leverage vis-à-vis the big brother. As the haggling goes on, what is abundantly clear is that none of the issues at stake has anything to do with public interest.

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