Within months of joining hands with the BJP to form the state government, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray clarified the Sena’s role – that it is in the government only to bring stability, and will be the first to criticise it if need be.
Since then, the allies have clashed on a multitude of issues — events featuring Pakistani artists, the closure of Mumbai’s abattoirs during a Jain festival and the alignment of a Metro railway line, to name a few. The government’s second year was no different. The Sena often openly joined the Opposition to stall legislative proceedings. Over the next three years too, the Sena’s stance of a ruling Opposition is unlikely to change, as it squirms in the role of BJP’s junior partner. However, even as the party tries to stamp, its picking fights with the government has had little impact on the state government’s functioning, unlike the rift within the previous Congress-NCP government.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “We have no problem till there are no differences within the cabinet. Till date, we have taken all cabinet decisions unanimously.” He added, “Despite being a ruling party, if you still want to play the Opposition role, it will be a loss to the party. They should decide. We are comfortable.”
The Congress-NCP feud in the previous government sparked off with former CM Prithviraj Chavan dissolving the NCP-controlled Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank on the RBI’s recommendation. Soon, differences within the two allies started manifesting in irrigation and infrastructure sectors. But, the Congress and NCP were equals. After the 2009 polls, the Congress had 82 seats, while the NCP 62. They formed the government with 15 NCP ministers and 12 Congress ones. In contrast, the BJP has 122 legislators and the Sena 63. In the cabinet too, the BJP has 17 ministers, more than three times the Sena’s five. Moreover, Fadnavis has no deputy giving him a tight clasp on the chief minister’s office.
The BJP-government has managed to get several decisions through, despite the ally’s opposition. For instance, even as Sena chief Thackeray pushes for the Mahalaxmi racecourse land to be developed into a theme park, the cabinet recently approved a policy that can pave way for the renewal of Royal Western India Turf Club’s lease on the land. Similarly, in spite of the Sena opposing Metro line construction through Girgaum and Metro car shed at Aarey, the government is going ahead with its plans.
BJP minister Chandrakant Patil said, “The council of ministers has become a more homogenous group now. There were some issues when Sena ministers and legislators thought their say was not being heard, but the CM assured them it was just a misunderstanding. Now, except the Vidarbha issue, there is no administrative standoff between the parties.” However, a senior Sena leader said, “The focus on all discourse, which should be development, seems to be only politics. The government is working keeping the BJP’s growth in mind, and not the state’s growth,” he said.