The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena relations have been uneasy since the 2014 Assembly polls, but they hit a new low on Sunday.
For the first time, the Sena boycotted all functions chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Mumbai, with party president Uddhav Thackeray issuing a diktat that not a single party leader will attend any of the three events. Thackeray and his leaders instead chose to address farmers at Beed in Marathwada, where the party chief, in a veiled threat, said that if required his party will opt out of the government.
Will the bitterness affect the running of the state government, which has 10 Sena ministers and, more importantly, has been propped up on the support of 63 legislators from the party?
In political circles, it is being said that a split between the allies is likely sooner than later (before Mumbai civic elections in 2017), but a lot depends on where Thackeray decides to draw the line.
“With this insult [of inviting the Sena president too late], it is clear that BJP is saying that this saffron alliance will run on its terms. It remains to be seen whether Thackeray has the political courage to call it quits. It’s likely that he may pull out of government and chose to support it from outside. His big concern is BJP trying to break his party and how he can keep it undivided until 2017,” said Prakash Bal, a political analyst.
Bal added that Sena has considerable support, particularly in urban areas, which could enable it to pull off this stance.
Sources in the Sena told HT that the entire episode over the invitation for the events left a bitter taste. “This will have repercussions on the government. Uddhavji will take a decision at the right time. For starters, we will go all out to critique the government. We also want to see how well we can manage Kalyan civic elections and how the BJP does in Bihar,’’ said a senior Sena leader.
Senior BJP leaders said that the party’s strategy was to be aggressive when it came to expanding its base and the focus was to pick maximum local bodies between now and 2019. “Sena has nothing to win if it pulls out of the government. So, that’s a risk we are willing to take,’’ said a BJP minister.
Party sources also said they were not keen on inviting the Sena to the programmes following constant criticism of the PM as well as the government in Sena’s mouthpiece, Saamna.