The recent truce between the saffron allies, stitched together by CM Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, may come undone on the heels of the Union cabinet expansion, as the Sena is likely to be given a miss in the rejig.
The Sena, which was expecting a second cabinet berth at the Centre, was irked on Monday, because there was no news from the BJP camp on the expansion.
By late afternoon, even as confirmation about berths for RPI- (A) leader Ramdas Athawale and BJP’s Dhule MP Dr Subhash Bhamare came in, there was no official communication with Sena.
Sources from the BJP told HT that Fadnavis, who was camped in Delhi since morning, was trying until late evening to get a berth for ally Sena, but there was no confirmation on whether he had been successful in petitioning the Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the same. It was learnt that party president Amit Shah had turned down a cabinet berth for the Sena.
Thackeray made no bones about the fact that his party was annoyed and humiliated at not being taken into account yet again by the BJP. “We are a party that has self-respect. We will not beg for anything. We will take what is rightfully ours.”
Many in the Sena also see this as a complete turnaround by its ally because the BJP recently went out of its way to make peace with Thackeray. The party had been toying with the idea of nominating one of the two MPs, Anil Desai and Sanjay Raut, to the Union cabinet, although Desai was a favourite and had even got feelers from the BJP camp about this.
“There are many queuing up to join the Sena and I’m busy with that. There has been no consultation [between the BJP, Sena] over the expansion. I have not had any discussion with anyone on this issue. Hence, the question of what we want from it doesn’t arise,’’ Thackeray said.
The refusal to give the Sena a berth will only mean the party will take its defiance against the Modi government a notch higher. In fact, it might show up soon when Fadnavis decides to expand his cabinet. Sena leaders indicated they may not settle for what the BJP wants to give it — two ministers with state posts. The fresh bout of hostilities between the allies could also have an impact on the upcoming mini elections in the state. Nearly 26 zilla parishads, 9 municipal corporations and 297 panchayats will go to polls in the state from October this year to March next year and give a referendum on the Fadnavis government.
The real fireworks between the allies will start ahead of the 2017 Mumbai municipal corporation elections, which could potentially even destabilise the state government.
“Fadnavis does not want to rock the boat with the Sena because the BJP doesn’t want to take on too many opponents ahead of the polls. He wants to keep doors open for at least a post-poll alliance in Mumbai. And hence he is keen on getting the Sena a berth in the Union cabinet. But party president Amit Shah is not keen on it,’’ said a senior party functionary.
Late on Monday evening, Fadnavis met with Modi after a discussion with Shah, to once again make a case for the Sena, but the outcome of this meeting remained uncertain.
Meanwhile, sources within the Sena also indicated there were informal talks with the BJP over the issue. In these talks, BJP leaders revealed that close Uddhav aide Desai was the front-runner to be a part of Modi’s cabinet. “However, there has been no official communication with Uddhavji. Unless that happens from the BJP’s side, nothing will go forward,” a senior leader said.