For the past 20 days, the Shiv Sena has been unable to make up its mind —whether to accept what the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is offering or to sit in the Opposition.
After the fiasco on Sunday when it asked its nominee Anil Desai to return from Delhi and skip taking part in the expansion of PM Narendra Modi’s Cabinet, the Sena leadership on Monday tried out a new experiment in the state legislature: It staked claim for the space of main Opposition party in the Assembly and at the same time announced it was still in talks with the BJP for a power-sharing deal.
The question being asked is: Can’t the Sena leadership make up its mind? And if not, why?
Worries such as large-scale defections from the party and losing control of key civic bodies are the reason why the party leadership is treading cautiously, said insiders.
“Our top brass is worried some of the party MLAs will quit soon if it sits in the Opposition. That could start a process of many more defections in the party,” said a senior Sena leader.
The other issue is the control over Mumbai’s civic body, which has been with the Sena for over two decades. It is currently heading the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation in alliance with the BJP and if the latter withdraws support, it will have to take the help of Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) to retain power.
Further, the Sena might lose power over the BMC in the 2017 civic elections.
Both these things will ultimately lead to the party losing its political space to the BJP, said Sena insiders.
A section of party leaders, however, insist the party is over-estimating the damage and should sit in the Opposition.
“If the BJP could not split a few legislators from the Aam Aadmi Party, can it woo a sizeable chunk of Sena MLAs? Those who are elected to the Assembly won’t like to contest the elections again and seek votes in the name of another party,” said a party legislator.
“By not accepting our demands, the BJP has portrayed the Sena as being desperate to be in power. This is completely opposite to our party’s character,” he adds.
The BJP’s firm stand and its preparedness to go on without the Sena might ultimately prompt the Sena leadership to sit in the Opposition.
However, many in the party think Thackeray should have taken a clear stand much earlier and avoided the political damage.