Days before the Mumbai civic polls are announced, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray launched a verbal attack on ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), joining the Opposition’s chorus that the party is using the Union budget for electoral gains, and sent strong signals that a tie-up for the Mumbai polls may be unlikely.
Addressing the Sena cadre at a party convention in Mumbai, Thackeray slammed the Centre for being keen on unveiling the budget in February just before the Assembly polls are held in five states. The Sena chief said his party will request President Pranab Mukherjee to prevent the government from announcing the budget before the elections.
The Sena chief also hardened his criticism of the PM’s demonetisation move, where old notes of Rs500 and Rs1,000 denomination were suddenly decommissioned, causing inconvenience to people at large. In one of his sharp attacks on the Modi government, Thackeray said India has witnessed the kind of tension it never witnessed since it got freedom. “Are we going towards a China-like dictatorship,” he remarked.
“Was the government napping when tycoons like Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi ran away? Today, the state of the farmers is extremely poor. They don’t have money to spend. The ‘achche din’ are only in the small solace that people are still alive,” Thackeray said, adding the Sena will always speak out about anything that is going wrong in the country.
The Sena chief also indicated the alliance with the BJP for the Mumbai civic polls was difficult.
“We won’t forge an alliance out of any helplessness,” he said.
Elections to the BMC are likely to be announced in a day or two, and will be conducted next month. Senior leaders of both parties admit that neither has initiated any formal talks, and there is little time left to hammer out a seat-sharing agreement and prepare candidates accordingly.
Sena office bearers from Mumbai said the party has already readied a list of probable candidates for all 227 wards, preparing to contest the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) election alone, although it had given the BJP 63 seats to contest the last election in 2012. “The way things are going, 99% any kind of alliance this time is unlikely. The chief minister may want to keep himself in the Sena chief’s good books, but the BJP’s local leadership has strongly criticised, even protested against our party and even stated that the BMC will have the BJP’s mayor next. Local Sainiks are disillusioned and prefer to not have any alliance,” a Mumbai-based Sena office bearer said.
While relations between the Sena and BJP have been choppy for a while, the alliance is souring by the day with the tussle having reached the state cabinet on Tuesday. Sena ministers walked out, sounding their opposition to two proposals brought to the table—the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train and a hawkers’ policy—and expressing their displeasure with the sudden rejigging of guardian ministers.
Thackeray lauded the ministers in his Wednesday’s speech, saying, “Whatever we don’t agree with, we will speak out in front of whoever it may be.” He said the party is not opposed to the bullet-train proposal and has always been pro-development, but the government should properly plan the project first.
Thackeray also indirectly alleged the BJP forges alliances very opportunistically and flexes money power during elections. In a veiled reference to BJP Maharashtra chief Raosaheb Danve’s recent remark about voters welcoming ‘lakshmi’ (money) a day before polls on the eve of municipal council elections in Maharashtra, Thackeray said, “If you want to contest elections, fight cleanly. We don’t have that much ‘lakshmi’ and whatever we have is not for buying votes.”
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