The BJP and the Shiv Sena have finally parted ways. At the end of a tedious and convoluted endgame that unravelled in the last six weeks, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is left with neither power nor prestige.
The man who had declared at the start of the assembly election campaign in September that Maharashtra will have a Sena chief minister had to suffer the discomfiture of seeing the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis take the oath of office on October 31, and will now have his 63 MLAs in the assembly face off the BJP government within and outside the legislature.
Even as he prepared to sit in the Opposition, he still left a crack open for further negotiations.
As things stand, the Sena’s reign in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, where it shares power with the BJP, is also threatened. For the party, sitting in the Opposition till 2019, if Mr Fadnavis’ minority government lasts out its term, will be two long decades of being without power.
Some of its senior leaders and sections of its rank and file may not remain committed to the late Bal Thackeray’s party. Uddhav Thackeray will have to creatively protect his party from the BJP onslaught now for they compete for the same political turf. The official split means that Mr Fadnavis will, for the time being at least, lead a minority government, making the BJP dependent on Sharad Pawar’s NCP for survival.
The NCP had declared unconditional support within hours of the BJP emerging as the single-largest party, but no one will accept a wager that Mr Pawar will not extract a price for propping up the government. Both the parties’ leaders can choose to forget that Modi had insulted it as “Naturally Corrupt Party”, but what happens to Mr Fadnavis’ pre-poll assertion to bring those involved in the multi-crore irrigation scam, mainly NCP leaders, to book?
The political re-alignment in Maharashtra will have far-reaching implications which will unfold in the years to come. A Congress bastion till recently, the party is not even in the game today. Equally important, the government and the Opposition will both be right-of-centre though faintly different shades of saffron.