In a slugfest the former allies Shiv Sena and BJP are now engaged in for the top job in Maharashtra, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement that he will not criticise the Uddhav Thackeray-led party is being seen as a calculated move.
Political pundits see this as an effort to keep the doors for a post-poll reconciliation open for Sena’s top leadership if the multi-cornered Assembly polls give a fractured mandate. At this point of time, no single party is sure of winning an absolute majority in the 288-member house.
Taking into consideration the strong anti-BJP sentiments in the Sena cadre after the break-up, Modi chose to invoke Sena founder, late Bal Thackeray.
The Sena workers at the grass-roots level still worship the senior Thackeray. He said he respected the late leader for his lifelong efforts to making the Sena what it is today. “I have decided not to say a single word against the Sena as a mark of respect to Balasaheb,” Modi said, while responding to queries about why he had not attacked the Sena in the three rallies held on Saturday.
Political commentator Surendra Jondhale said Modi’s gesture was politically motivated. “Modi does not want to hurt the sainiks’ feelings. And also he does not want to hurt Uddhav, who has said he has nothing against the PM, and has blamed the break-up entirely on the BJP’s state leadership,” he said.
According to him, there was very thin social demarcation between the grass-roots level sainiks and the BJP cadre. “The two have been working together for many years and their social constitution is one and the same. There are chances the sainiks may even shift loyalty in case the BJP gets a huge majority in these polls.”
Jondhale saw a strong possibility of the BJP forming a post-poll alliance with the Sena, if needed.
State BJP president Devendra Fadnavis told HT that Modi did not woo the Sena. He said the PM displayed statesmanship on Sunday. “Modiji’s message was clear. One cannot change his/her views overnight to gain political advantage, and one cannot be myopic in one’s vision,” said Fadnavis.
Reacting to Modi’s move, the Sena continued to hold a grudge against the state BJP leaders. Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray said, “Balasaheb always considered the BJP as family, but it has backstabbed the late leader by snapping ties.” He was speaking at a rally in Nashik after Modi’s rally in Tasgaon.
Aaditya said the BJP grew in Maharashtra by holding Shiv Sena’s hand. “However, as soon as the party came to power at the Centre, it snapped ties with the Sena. It is the BJP that parted ways with us over sharing of seats.”
Fadnavis said there was no reason for the PM to woo any party because the BJP would win with a comfortable majority. He said senior leader Nitin Gadkari, who had hinted at a post-poll alliance with the Sena in media interviews, was also confident of the BJP forming the government on its own.