All eyes on next chapter in Sena’s state story | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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All eyes on next chapter in Sena’s state story

A partner in the ruling alliance, but in constant tussle with big brother the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — this is how the Shiv Sena could describe its position in state politics as it enters its 50th year on Friday.

mumbai Updated: Jun 19, 2015 00:39 IST
HT Correspondent

A partner in the ruling alliance, but in constant tussle with big brother the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — this is how the Shiv Sena could describe its position in state politics as it enters its 50th year on Friday.

The past year has been a crucial period for the Shiv Sena. After losing its charismatic chief Bal Thackeray, its cadre was not sure about the ability of his successor Uddhav to lead successfully, as the Modi wave seemed to be sweeping the nation. The BJP completely dominated the Lok Sabha elections and won power on its own. The Sena was given just one ministerial berth with a politically insignificant portfolio by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, making it clear that the BJP was planning to marginalise the Sena in Maharashtra.

It was also the time when serious questions were being raised over Uddhav’s leadership. However, the newly-crowned Sena chief sprung a surprise by taking a tough stand in negotiations with the BJP for the Assembly elections. As the talks failed, the BJP decided to contest on its own, with the Uddhav-led Sena putting up a strong fight.

In a four-cornered contest, the Sena managed to win 63 seats and, in the process, ensured the BJP did not win a simple majority of 145. The latter reached 122 and needed 23 seats to form the government. With a little help from Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which declared unconditional support to its government, the BJP managed to force the Sena to join its government on its terms.

The Sena again got a raw deal and over the past six months the party has not hidden its unhappiness. Periodically, the Sena leaders have been raising their voice against the state and Centre to embarrass the BJP. The two parties are seen to be locked in verbal duel on various occasions. Sena ministers in the government have been openly complaining that chief minister Devendra Fadnavis does not take them into confidence while taking key decisions.

Will things change now, especially with Fadnavis announcing during the party conclave in Kolhapur that the two parties would contest the civic polls in an alliance?

Leaders from both parties admit their relations are uneasy, but at the same time feel they may not have a choice.

“The BJP leadership is aware that the party’s honeymoon period with the voters is slowly coming to an end. The opposition parties are getting aggressive. As such, it cannot afford to lose the crucial civic and zilla parishad polls that will be held in the next two years. There will be some tussle, but they will have to remain friends with us,” said a key Sena leader.

A senior BJP minister agreed the party leaders want to be cautious. “The issues such as land bill, farmers’ problems and latest controversy over Lalit Modi could create a dent in our popularity. It would be safe for us to take the Sena and even the smaller allies along, instead of risking it by contesting alone,” he said.

“However, at the same time, we would try everything possible to ensure we become the big brother in Mumbai. We want to win the BMC and while doing so, our aim will be either to win more seats than the Sena or at least on a par with them,” he said.

In other words, Uddhav Thackeray and his team have another round of political maneuvering ahead, as they enter the party’s golden jubilee year. Although the BJP may be forced to make peace with the Sena for now, it has not given up on its ambitious agenda. What happens in the next two years could prove to be a turning point for the Sena.