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BJP miffed as Sena queues up with Opposition

mumbai Updated: Nov 17, 2016 00:42 IST
Ketaki Ghoge

People queue up outside a bank branch at Sion on Wednesday.(Kunal Patil)

The Shiv Sena’s decision to walk with the Mamta Banerjee-led opposition in its march against the demonetisation decision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday in Delhi left Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fuming and red in the face. But, this latest stunt by its ally is unlikely to threaten their partnership at the state with another two and a half years to go before the 2019 assembly polls.

Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s decision comes just days after the PM shared dais with NCP chief Sharad Pawar at a function in Pune. Sources in the Sena , however, said that it was a calculated move to ensure that the backlash of the common citizens due to the drive was not directed at the party.

The BJP state unit was livid with leaders pointing out that Sena was stretching the politics of convenience to its very limits. They indicated that the repercussions of this would be felt in the upcoming high-decibel Mumbai civic polls where the parties would now most likely contest solo. The recently-announced alliance for the 212 municipal council polls is also likely to take a hit, said a BJP leader.

“This decision has hit the common man badly and its effects will be felt more acutely in the days to come. As a party we have a different identity and stance from the BJP even though we are a part of the government. In the coming elections, we are often going to be fighting as opponents so we need to keep distance from the government and maintain our identity,’’ said a Sena leader.

The fact that PM has always shown his proximity to Pawar helped us as we are not doing anything different if the Sena chief takes a stand common with that an opposition leader like Mamata Banerjee, he added.

The decision of junking high-value notes of Rs500 and Rs1,000 by the PM comes just as the state faces local elections dubbed as mini-assembly polls. Nearly, 212 municipal councils, 26 zilla parishads or district councils, ten civic corporations including Mumbai and 297 panchayat samitis will go to polls from this November to March 2017, giving a referendum on the state BJP-led government. In many of these polls, the saffron allies will contest separately and as main rivals.

“This is a clear cut violation of collective responsibility as enshrined in the Constitution. The decision was not the PM’s alone but the cabinet’s in which Sena ministers have a presence. The PM’s decision is against black money hoarders, funding of nefarious activities and Sena by opposing it is speaking for the other side,’’ said BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari.

State’s finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar also said that the party was upset with the move. “PM shared dias with Pawar for a function meant for farmers. This is not comparable with the Sena joining the Opposition march against the Prime Minister Narendra Modi even when it is a part of his government in the Centre and the state. This is unfortunate and party cadre is upset with such a negative decision by the Sena,’’ said finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar.

Despite the uneasy relations, the saffron allies are expected to stay together until almost the end of the government’s tenure in 2019. While Thackeray is not convinced of the dividends of sitting in the Opposition for too long, the BJP will also be forced to take support of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to keep its government afloat in such a scenario. The irony of taking the help of NCP will not be lost on the mandate or on the chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis. Much of BJP’s campaign in Maharashtra two years ago centered around weeding out corruption and ensuring corrupt politicians embroiled in different scams get punished.