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Saturday, Oct 19, 2019

Devendra Fadnavis scripts deal with Shiv Sena behind the doors, emerges as BJP’s power centre

The credit for cementing the alliance with Shiv Sena, a bitter ally, in the need of the hour for the BJP, mostly goes to Maharashtra’s CM Devendra Fadnavis.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Feb 19, 2019 15:40 IST
Ketaki Ghoge
Ketaki Ghoge
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray with BJP president Amit Shah and Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis and others at a press conference to announce an alliance between Shiv Sena and BJP for Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, in Mumbai, Monday, Feb 18, 2019.
Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray with BJP president Amit Shah and Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis and others at a press conference to announce an alliance between Shiv Sena and BJP for Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, in Mumbai, Monday, Feb 18, 2019.(PTI)
         

The pre-poll tie-up with the Shiv Sena for the Lok Sabha polls in Maharashtra, the second-largest state in the country after Uttar Pradesh, places the BJP on secure ground in the battle for 48 seats here. The credit for cementing the alliance with a bitter ally, in the need of the hour for the BJP, mostly goes to the state’s CM Devendra Fadnavis. After having delivered the alliance, his stock within the party and its top brass, is set to rise further.

Over most of his past four-and-a-half years tenure as the CM, Fadnavis has been steadfast over two things: one that he would complete his tenure as the CM and two that BJP would ally with the Sena despite their ongoing tussle. One of the reasons for the CM’s preference for the Sena is his antipathy for the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) that in the first couple of years of his government, was seen as a possible ally for the BJP, given NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s relations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Fadnavis had consistently dismissed NCP as a potential ally, pointing to his party top brass that aligning with it would come at a heavy cost for the BJP. The BJP in the state came to power riding on the plank of anti-corruption, slamming the irrigation scam that happened under the purview of Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar. Fadnavis’ USP is his clean image.

The other reason to ensure the alliance, Fadnavis had told HT on the sidelines of the 16th HT Leadership Summit in December. When asked why he thought the saffron allies would align together despite the consistent battles, he had said “political compulsions and ground realities’’ will ensure the poll tie-up and Hindutva would prove to be a cementing factor.

He had also categorically ruled out NCP as a potential ally even in the future, saying they shared no ideological similarities.

“In the absence of mediators and seasoned leaders like Pramod Mahajan and to an extent Gopinath Munde during the second saffron government, the CM opened a direct communication channel with Uddhav Thackeray soon after he took over instead of relying on anyone else. He also ensured good relations with most Sena ministers and was not petty when it came to meeting their demands vis-a-vis administrative decisions etc,’’ said a senior BJP leader, considered to be close to Fadnavis.

He added that Fadnavis had spoken in favour of the Sena even as several other leaders advocated a clean divorce as the latter started attacking the BJP government and even PM Modi. One of Fadnavis’ goodwill gestures to the Sena was post the bitterly contested Mumbai civic polls in 2017, when BJP did not contest the mayoral polls, even after securing only two seats less than its ally.

“Most of the backchannel talks for the alliance started one and a half months ago, initiated by Fadnavis will full mandate of PM and Shah. By the time the first open face-to-face negotiation was held last week, the deal was near finalised. Post the Assembly results of the three states in December, we knew that alliance had to happen,’’ said the minister.

He said the Congress-NCP alliance, the loss of BJP in three states and surveys helped to convince the Sena that it would face heavy electoral losses without alliance.

Read | Maharashtra all set for straight fight between two alliances

The saffron alliance’s tally in 2014 together was 42. Knowing that it would be difficult to reach this tally on its own, CM’s target was to minimize poll losses by getting 35 + seats with the Sena. This will directly minimize figures for the UPA, which is looking at Maharashtra as one of the states to increase its tally.

“BJP and Sena leaders will start campaigning together soon, but before that they will tour drought-affected districts to review the situation,’’ said Fadnavis, indicating that party cadre of both the allies would now have to start accommodating one another.

“We can now stop meeting secretly now, we will meet openly and roam the state and even the country together now,’’ Thackeray said at the press conferences, hinting at the several rounds of backdoor talks.

With an alliance in place, the seat target is now within reach, claim BJP leaders. The alliance is Fadnavis’ major political win. Not many outside and inside his party, will however be happy with this.

First Published: Feb 19, 2019 15:39 IST

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