The BJP and the Shiv Sena are heading for a showdown in Maharashtra ahead of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) poll in February.
Ties between the two allies were strained after they parted ways on the eve of 2014 assembly election, only to join hands after polls. Though a part of the NDA at the Centre and the coalition government in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena has been taking potshots at the Modi government, the latest being its handling of the recent unrest in Kashmir. On Tuesday, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray escalated it further, saying he won’t mind quitting the state government if the BJP created more hurdle.
In an angry outburst against the BJP, Thackeray said Sena “wasted” 25 years of its 50-year existence by having the alliance.
A day after Thackeray’s jibe, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Rajnath Singh used Twitter to wish him on his birthday, but it is unlikely to mollify him, reason being the BJP’s demand to revisit the seat-sharing agreement for 227-member BMC, which has had a Sena leader as the mayor for the last 15 years.
“We want Sena and BJP to contest equal number of seats. We are bigger partner in the state assembly and there is no point in remaining its junior partner in the corporation,” a BJP’s leader privy to Maharashtra affairs told HT.
“His threats to quit are nothing but self-defence mechanism. It’s for the Sena to decide if they want to continue in alliance or not. We have set our eye on BMC,” another BJP leader here said. The BJP, though, does not want to appear in a hurry to break ties.
In the 2012 BMC election, Sena fielded candidates on 135 seats and won 75. BJP got 60 seats and won 31. Remaining 32 seats were left for the third partner, the Republican Party of India (Athawale).
BJP leaders are of the view that Thackeray might not agree to their demand for equal number of seats and therefore, do not rule out the possibility of a repeat of the 2014 assembly elections when he had broken ties.
Thackeray took reins of the Sena from his father Bal Thackeray in 2004 and has struggled to expand the base of the party beyond India’s financial capital. For the Shiv Sena, the BMC elections are a matter of survival. The BJP, on the other hand, is determined to expand its presence, even if it comes at the cost of its alliance partner.