Has the countdown for a BJP versus Shiv Sena showdown in the 2017 Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections begun? The friction between the two allies escalated on Monday. In a rare outburst, the Sena youth wing chief Aaditya Thackeray took potshots at the BJP-led government at the Centre, slamming it for poor handling of student agitations.
The BJP, on its part, turned the heat on the Sena by demanding a police investigation into alleged irregularities in construction of roads by the BMC.
Thackeray, in a Facebook post, hit out at those who trolled his father and Sena chief, Uddhav Thackeray, for his statement on Sunday that Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar had been wrongly labelled an anti-national, and that the BJP must introspect on its handling of the episode that made Kumar a hero. Even the Sena mouthpiece ‘Saamna’ hit out at the BJP over the issue, also taking potshots at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not having the time to visit drought-hit Marathwada.
Thackeray’s post was addressed to “‘troll-nationalists of a party preaching to others,” and did not name the BJP. It attacked the BJP on a range of issues, from the row over nationalism to its alliance with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu & Kashmir.
“Is nationalism now a brand only imposed by the government on those seeming to oppose it? Is it not applicable when the ‘nationalist party’ allies itself desperately with the PDP that has been more vocal about clemency for Afzal Guru? Or is it electoral maths that changes the perception,” Thackeray asked in his post.
“The Government discussed Pathankot with the Government of Pakistan, the Government discussed alliances with the PDP (that openly supported the separatists and terrorists - yes, Afzal Guru), surely students (misguided as seen by some, and seditious by the Government) can be called and spoken to, over tea,” he added.
The younger Thackeray’s outburst is significant. What, really, explains it? The immediate provocation might be the way Uddhav Thackeray was trolled, but that is only part of the reason. Sena leaders have been irritated with attempts by various city BJP leaders to target the Sena and link it to alleged corruption in the BMC.
In fact on Monday as Mumbai civic chief Ajoy Mehta submitted a probe report confirming alleged irregularities in construction of 34 roads, Mumbai BJP president Ashish Shelar demanded that police investigation should be conducted not only to nail the guilty officials and contractors but also those behind them. Though the two parties have been ruling the BMC together for about two decades, they are now trying to blame each other for the city’s problems as they prepare to contest next year’s civic polls separately.
Earlier, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who has repeatedly said that the BJP-Sena government will last the whole term, signalled a hardline stance against the Sena, saying that he would go ahead with his cabinet’s expansion, even if the Sena did not agree.
“How can the BJP be so opportunistic in criticising the corruption in the BMC when they have ruled and okayed every decision taken there? We realise that this is obviously a larger plan to discredit us ahead of the BMC polls and then not have alliance with us,” said a city Sena leader.