Adopting a cautious approach ahead of the upcoming election season in the state that starts in October, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has kept a window open for alliance with its troublesome partner, the Shiv Sena, in local self-government institutions.
On the concluding day of its state executive meeting in Pune on Sunday, the party while passing its resolution, sticking to its old philosophy, said the local units would take a call on the alliance. However, according to sources, the idea is to put the ball in the Sena’s court and avoid fights ahead of elections. This, however, does not mean the party will ally with the Sena in Mumbai, said BJP leaders.
The state will see elections to 26 zilla parishads or district councils, 297 panchayat samitis and nine big municipal corporations, including Mumbai, from October 2016 to March 2017. The results of these elections will be seen as referendum on the Devendra Fadnavis government. It will also give clarity on where the BJP and its political rivals stand ahead of the 2019 polls.
“There is no reason to spell out our stance or electoral strategy now. In some cases, we might ally with the Sena if it works to our advantage. In Mumbai, we will mostly fight solo, as the Sena is unlikely to share more seats. Let them take that call,” said a senior party functionary, who was present at the meeting, adding, the focus will be on defeating the Congress-NCP in local self-government bodies.
When the party passed another resolution congratulating the Sena for completing 50 years, a group of party workers raised slogans against the ally for its consistent targeting of the BJP leadership, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the government policies. One of its legislators from Mumbai, Madhu Chavan, said there was no reason to ally with the Sena, which compared the BJP’s rule with that of Nizam’s, for the upcoming elections, especially in Mumbai. Party workers also complained the state leadership is too soft on the Sena and does not launch counter attacks, which damages the reputation of the BJP government. Party leaders assured the workers their anger would be conveyed to the Sena. “If we accord respect to their top brass and founder Bal Thackeray, can’t they maintain decorum while talking about the PM,” the workers said.
Making a reference to the Sena in his address, Union minister Nitin Gadkari reminded the cadre of the party’s agenda — shat pratishat BJP — stating every party has the right to spread its base and ideology.
The BJP’s decision to maintain status quo with the Sena comes a day after union minister Venkaiah Naidu, who is in charge of affairs of the state, asked leaders of both the parties to sit together and sort out the differences. A group in the state BJP says the party should contest municipal corporation elections, particularly in Mumbai, which is the main source of power for the Sena, together, the other feels it should not take on the Sena in the current political atmosphere.