New set of advisors likely reason behind Uddhav Thackeray’s aggression
Even when Sena joined the BJP-led government in the state after initially opting for the Opposition benches in 2014, state BJP leaders could convince Thackeray to accept a deal that did not involve any significant portfolios for Sena ministers.Updated: Nov 10, 2019 11:13 IST
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has surprised not just his ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), but even his party colleagues, with his aggression over the issue of power sharing. While insisting on chief ministership for half the tenure of the government, even though his party has roughly half the seats won by BJP, Thackeray has indicated he is willing to snap the ties with his ally if the latter doesn’t accept his demand. Though party insiders are attributing the Sena chief’s aggression to his new set of advisors, many of them are also wondering whether this would damage the party in the long run.
Since 2014, when BJP-led governments came to power in the state as well as at the Centre, the experience of state BJP leaders has been that Thackeray was not a difficult person to negotiate with. “Like any political negotiations, he would take a particular stand and after our talks, would climb down. At a certain point he would accept a pact that was mutually agreeable,” said a senior BJP leader, who was involved in talks with the Sena in the past. “In fact, he [Thackeray] took a realistic stand and did not complain much when his party was given just one ministerial berth at the Centre after the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and 2019,” the leader said.
Even when Sena joined the BJP-led government in the state after initially opting for the Opposition benches in 2014, state BJP leaders could convince Thackeray to accept a deal that did not involve any significant portfolios for Sena ministers.
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Though Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) was an option for BJP, then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had indicated that he did not want Pawar’s party to prop his government. Still, Thackeray did not bargain hard, and his motive was to ensure an alliance government in the state.
However, Thackeray, after the 2019 Assembly elections, is difficult to bargain with, say state BJP leaders. Since the election results were announced, Thackeray has not budged from his demand for chief ministership. He stopped official communication with BJP after Fadnavis debunked his contention that the two parties had decided to share chief ministership equally. Since then, Thackeray has been insisting that he would resume talks only when BJP agrees to share chief ministership.
Sena insiders say a major reason behind Thackeray’s aggression is his set of advisors, who include political strategist Prashant Kishor. “Of course, the post-poll situation is advantageous to Sena as BJP cannot form the government on its own, but Thackeray’s firm stand has made negotiating a power pact a tough task for BJP leaders,” said a senior Sena leader.
According to the leader, Thackeray has been seeking Kishor’s advice on how to deal with BJP. Besides, Thackeray’s son and Worli MLA, Aaditya, and his aides have been playing an important role in the election strategy too, after the results were announced. Aaditya’s aides, such as Varun Sardesai and Suraj Chavan, were involved in informal communication with BJP leaders, said the Sena leader.
“The new set of advisors has convinced Uddhavji that the post-poll situation is favourable for Sena and it can be exploited to get what the party wants. That is why, he is insisting that the chief ministership should be shared by the allies,” said another key party leader. “They have convinced him that the party will get benefit even if it forms the government with NCP. It will help the Sena leadership end the dominance of BJP that Thackeray faces in the alliance,” the leader added.
Significantly, Sena functionaries such as Subhash Desai, Anil Desai, Eknath Shinde and Milind Narvekar, who were involved in earlier negotiations, were of the view that the party should stick to BJP. Senior Sena leaders are divided whether the stand adopted by the leadership is right.
Many in the party are wondering whether going with NCP-Congress would prove to be damaging for Sena in the long run. “BJP and Sena are ideologically close. We have a similar voter base. As such, aligning with Congress-NCP as an option to BJP may be suicidal in the long run,” said the Sena leader.
Political analyst Surendra Jondhale said the Sena leadership is looking at the future scenario. “The Sena leadership is probably of the opinion that BJP is losing ground and this is the time to assert itself. Thackeray is not just keen to get back the space he lost in 2014, but also ensure future prospects of his son, Aaditya. It remains to be seen whether his gamble works,” he opined.