The Shiv Sena’s paint-attack on the former adviser to ex-deputy prime minister LK Advani in Mumbai on Monday signals a worsening of relations with the BJP and could effectively end chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ backing of his ruling ally.
Fadnavis has all along stressed on continuing the BJP-Sena alliance – which had fallen apart ahead of last year’s assembly elections –for the full five years as he was averse to taking the support of the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Fadnavis is the only senior state BJP leader who was keen on doing business with Sena chief Udhav Thackeray but its attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni on Monday may hasten the end of the shaky ties.
The incident involving Kulkarni has hit Fadnavis -- also the home minister -- the most as the failure to provide security to the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) chairman is being viewed as a lack of foresight on his part.
This is the second incident within a week after a concert by Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali was also cancelled following Sena threats despite Fadnavis’ assurance of adequate security.
The paint-attack is also being seen as a retaliation to the government’s snub to the Sena by not inviting its leaders to a function presided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi a day earlier.
An irked CM sent an indirect message on Monday afternoon to the Sena to reign in its agitation or face stringent action.
Since the Sena joined the government, its leaders have said that it feels it has got a second class treatment from the BJP.
“They forget that the government is standing on our support,” Sena minister Ramdas Kadam had said in his address at a farmers rally in Marathwada on Sunday.
The state government is propped up on the support of 63 Sena legislators and a decision by Thackeray to pull out of the government or support it from outside would make the Fadnavis government very shaky.
A senior BJP leader, however, warned: “They (Sena) need to realise that the political dynamics have changed and we are the bigger ally. Also, Uddhav is not Bal Thackeray. After this stunt, CM is also unlikely to bat for them on any issue.”