The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Friday may have kept the Shiv Sena away from its minority government, but at the same time made swift moves to appease its former ally.
The overtures took place keeping in mind that the BJP may need the Sena’s support to prove its majority on the floor of the house between November 11 and 13.
Thus far, the BJP has been talking tough to prevent the Sena from dictating terms and taking potshots at the party leadership without provocation. It cornered the Sena to such an extent that the former ally initially decided to boycott the chief minister’s swearing-in ceremony on Friday.
However, the reconciliation began when BJP president Amit Shah, Union minister Arun Jaitley and Fadnavis personally invited Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray just hours before the Wankhede ceremony. Later, Shah met Thackeray at the venue in an apparent bid to diffuse the tension.
The meeting could restart negotiations between the two parties. However, a compromise is still some distance away. According to insiders, the Sena has reduced its demand for cabinet berths from 14 to 10, but still wants the deputy chief minister post and plum portfolios. The BJP, which has been adamant that the Sena won’t get more than five berths, is unlikely to comply. It had also rejected the Sena’s suggestion that at least two cabinet ministers be sworn in on Friday.
Another worrying factor for the BJP is the trust deficit with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which declared unconditional support from the outside when the results were declared. Many in the BJP do not buy the NCP’s argument that it offered support for the purpose of a stable government. A common view is that the offer was to prevent the BJP from prosecuting senior NCP leaders on charges of corruption.
A senior BJP leader said that if the party accepts support from the NCP, it would offer ammunition to the Congress and the Sena with which to attack the government.
“We have been claiming support from at least 135 MLAs (122 of the BJP/allies and others) but the independents are arm-twisting us to get a share of power. Smaller parties, too, are troublesome. In the end, the Sena, which is our natural ally, may prove friends,” said another BJP insider.
However, the Sena might find bargaining tough after heaping insults on the BJP’s top leadership h during the election campaign. “Modi and Shah were angry because they were consistently attacked at Sena rallies.” said a senior BJP leader.