Political tango — on Shiv Sena-BJP ties

The only surprise in the Shiv Sena’s decision to go it alone in future elections is the timing. With parliamentary elections more than a year away and in the absence of any political compulsion to reveal its hand now, it is not clear what led the Sena to make the announcement. It is public knowledge that the BJP and the Sena, to understate the point, are not on the best of terms — even in the Assembly election of 2014, the Sena fought without its erstwhile ally. The truth is that both parties are at a stage in their political life when one can grow in Maharashtra only at the expense of the other. This is no ideological rift. The Sena, even from the reign of its founder Bal Thackeray, had sought to expand beyond Marathi chauvinism by embracing hardline Hindutva. The differences between the two parties were entirely over sharing of seats for the Assembly election, a result of the BJP seeking a larger share than before on the basis of its better performance in the Lok Sabha polls, held just months earlier. If the seat negotiations sowed the seeds of the rift, the results of the elections effectively ended any chance of a revival of a pre-poll alliance. The Sena, used to being the senior partner in the alliance, finished way behind the BJP in the election, and had to join the Maharashtra government with several bruises to its political ego. As things stand, if the Sena wants an alliance with the BJP in 2019, it can only be as a junior partner. This is unthinkable for Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, who is under some pressure to erase the impression that he is not politically as tough as his father, Bal.

All signals from the Sena’s national executive indicate that it sees the BJP more as a rival than as an ally. Mr. Thackeray seems unable to reconcile himself to the changed political equations in Maharashtra, as he has vowed to compete with the BJP for Hindutva votes in other States. The unstated purpose appears to be to hurt the BJP wherever he can, in retaliation for encroaching upon the Sena’s space in Maharashtra. But for all the belligerence of the Sena, the BJP is unmoved. The national party looks as if it is treating its regional ally as an errant child. The BJP does not need the Sena’s support at the Centre; in Maharashtra, where it is short of a majority, it is not asking its partner to leave the government. The BJP tries to wear the attitude of an indulgent senior partner, one that is reluctant to act in anger or haste. As for the Sena, it has chosen to refrain from attempting to pull down the Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra and to stay on in the Narendra Modi government at the Centre. In short, the two parties have signalled they can still be in a relationship, if not an alliance. They may fight elections separately, but they can still rule together.

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Printable version | Jun 11, 2021 10:12:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/political-tango/article22515393.ece

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