The Shiv Sena has been threatening to end its alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Maharashtra but observers believe Uddhav Thackeray’s party could stay put in the ruling coalition to consolidate its position in the state.
As leaders of the two parties addressed public meetings on Friday for the upcoming Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation elections, Uddhav threatened to withdraw support to the BJP-led government while chief minister Devendra Fadnavis spoke of hauling the Sena up before the Election Commission.
The sight symbolised the year that has gone by: Going for each other’s throats despite sticking together in alliance. The year is ending the way it began – it was a last-minute phone call to a sulking Thackeray that made him attend the swearing-in ceremony.
For the Shiv Sena, the year in power has been long and torrid. It got a share in power, but not quite. It got some respect, but not wholeheartedly. More than the power, it’s the lack of respect that rattled the Sena the most.
“Of course, we wanted a fair share of power and more powerful portfolios. But the BJP could have made up for not giving us these by according us more respect and importance, which also didn’t happen,” said a city-based Shiv Sena leader who did not want to be named.
The Shiv Sena is yet to come round to the realisation that it is no longer the big brother in the alliance and that its position has been taken by the BJP.
The bickering notwithstanding, the Shiv Sena may not rock the boat for now. Insiders said Thackeray’s stand, spelled out at the party’s annual Dussehra rally, is clear enough – the party will stay in the government for the time being.
The Shiv Sena, while not publicising the government’s year in power, believes it has had a decent outing.
“The performance has been a mixed bag. The governance is definitely much better than the Congress-NCP rule and we have even managed to bring down corruption levels. However, the government needs to bring inflation under control as well as control law and order better,” said senior Shiv Sena leader Neelam Gorhe.
Anyone familiar with the Shiv Sena’s politics is aware of its expectations when it comes to “respect”.
A senior minister from the party, who did not want to be named, said: “Even when the BJP ruled at the Centre, their tallest leaders like (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee and (LK) Advani would pick up the phone and talk to Balasaheb. They consulted us on important decisions and tried to gain our approval. In return, we trusted them completely.”
From the time when senior BJP leaders drove to the Shiv Sena chief’s home Matoshree whenever they were in Mumbai, the ties between the two have hit new lows. A case in point was the fracas over the ceremonies for the Indu Mill memorial and the Metro lines attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The BJP kept insisting Thackeray could not be invited as a state guest as he doesn’t hold a constitutional post. In the end, the party sent out an invitation the day before the events.
The Shiv Sena has also not been able to make much headway with its ministers in the government. A party MP said the cadres weren’t very happy with their performance and their performance has been lacklustre.