Following the BJP’s electoral triumph in four of the five states that went to polls, especially Uttar Pradesh, the Shiv Sena is now looking to consolidate its own presence in Maharashtra without immediately snapping ties with its ally in the state.
The party on Tuesday tied up with the Congress to form an administrative body in a few panchayat samitis in the Aurangabad and Ahmednagar districts, and is also in talks with both the Congress and NCP for similar arrangements in Zilla Parishads (ZP). A panchayat samiti governs a tehsil and works under the ZP which governs the district. Both these bodies are significant in rural politics.
The party has also been backing Opposition parties in the state legislature in stalling house proceedings for the entire first week of the session over the issue of a loan waiver for farmers in Maharashtra. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray told his legislators to continue to press for the demand, and not let the house function till such a time that the state government, of which it is a component, gives in to it and announces a loan waiver.
Surendra Jondhale, head of Mumbai University’s department of civics and politics, said, “The Sena’s strategy will now be different than what it was earlier this year. With the positive boost of the UP results for the BJP, the Sena is rethinking and its primary task will be to consolidate its organisational strength for the 2019 Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly polls. The strategy will be to be more assertive than aggressive, and the party will want to focus on itself rather than engage in competition and one-upmanship with the BJP at this point.”
Jondhale said if the Sena does not concentrate on cementing its own identity and position in the face of pro-BJP electoral trends, considering the party’s recent victory strides, it may face the possibility of a gradual decline in Maharashtra.
Earlier this year, the Sena was more aggressive, splintering its alliance with the BJP for the local body polls and leading a shrill acrimonious campaign against its ally. Party chief Thackeray also said the party rotted in its alliance with the BJP and henceforth will never go begging for a tie-up, and that this was the beginning of the Sena’s new journey.
Sena ministers in the BJP-led state government also brandished resignation letters kept ready in their pockets, creating an atmosphere of uncertainty on for how long the party may continue its support to the BJP in the Maharashtra government. Without the Sena’s support, the BJP will have to struggle to bolster its numbers and keep the government stable or face an early election.
A senior Sena legislator, who did not wish to be named, said the party is not only trying to establish its own strength, but also consolidate an anti-BJP atmosphere. “Until now, the Sena-BJP fight was all about ministerial changes, allotment of portfolios, some policies here and there, but now the strategy is to isolate the BJP. Today, the condition is such that the BJP can beef up its numbers if the Sena was to just walk out of the government. So the Sena really wants to checkmate the BJP, then like the BJP, even we won’t be shy of having tie-ups of convenience, whether electoral or issue-based,” he said.