Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray put an end to the speculation on the Sena walking out of the Fadnavis-led government any time soon at the party’s annual Dussehra rally on Thursday. But Thackeray’s speech is unlikely to bring relief to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which got singed in the 45-minute address.
If anything, Thackeray’s address proves the Sena will continue to be a thorn in the flesh of the BJP government, an enemy within, which will expose and ridicule its weaknesses even better than the opponents.
The BJP-led government got targeted on all counts — price rise, Dadri lynching, Dalit murders, loud mouths in the government and failure to deliver on the Hindutva agenda.
For the state, this could end up as part two of the coalition drama that was witnessed especially during the last five years of the former Congress-NCP regime, where allies spent great time and energy snapping at each other. Unlike the former allies, the saffron partners will fight the turf battle over Hindutva as well as the state.
If this was round one in the battle, it goes to the Sena.
Thackeray, in his address, managed to hit all right notes, making a bid for the “right” Hindutva plank, one that does not search for suspected beef-eaters or call for Hindus to give birth to five children, but the one that pushes for the Uniform Civil Code. The target was not just the state government, but also the Centre.
At the moment, the BJP seems ill-equipped to handle Sena’s barbs or undo the damage caused by its ally. In the absence of senior leaders such as Gopinath Munde, who could serve as go-betweens and talk to Thackeray, the BJP is likely to face many such embarrassing moments.
“This kind of tug-of-war will now continue until the 2017 Mumbai civic polls, after which it will get uglier. Thackeray seems to be getting back at the BJP by challenging it on the Hindutva plank and proving that the Sena is more right-wing than the BJP. It will also help galvanise its core support group,” said Surendra Jondhale, a political analyst.
Nuisance value is what the Sena hopes to bargain with the BJP for a better deal, as Thackeray suggested in his speech asking Fadnavis to make better use of his ministers.