Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has made it clear that he wants his party to be part of the new state government, but, at the same time, he does not want to appear weak by giving in to its former ally’s demands.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is willing to take the Sena on board only on their terms.
Several senior leaders feel the Sena should maintain its dignity and not bend over backwards to be a part of the power game.
But if Uddhav follows this route, he will have to sit across the BJP as the Opposition. The Sena top brass is worried that this may hurt the party as well, as it could lead to leaders defecting to the BJP.
Eventually, this will put more pressure on Uddhav to keep the party together, who have to ensure this trend doesn’t spill over to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections in 2017.
Uddhav, who exuded confidence during the election campaign and slammed the BJP hard on multiple occasions, is now trying to patch up with its former ally.
On Monday, not only did he express his support through an editorial in the party mouthpiece Saamana, but also attributed the BJP’s win to PM Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah.
Later in the day, he sent MP Anil Desai and leader Subhash Desai to talk to Union oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan for the second time within a week.
Some senior Sena legislators feel the party is going over the top to please the BJP. “The signs are clear that if we sit in the government, we won’t be treated properly. It’s better to be a good opposition party instead. We have told Uddhavji that we don’t need to be worried about losing BMC, as we have done good work here,” said a senior Sena legislator in Mumbai.
Political experts, however, don’t agree. “There are three years left for the Sena to face the BMC elections. By then Modi will have established his style of functioning and the BJP may try to counter the Sena using the same strategy. Uddhav will have to tread his path carefully,” said political commentator Prakash Bal.
There is a feeling that it is time the Sena stop making unreasonable demands. “There is a great sense of fear in the Sena that if they do not talk tough then they will be finished. But it will be fatal for Uddhav not to be in power. He will need to bury his ego and accept the unprecedented mandate,” B Venkatesh, political analyst.