Analysis | Sena or BJP: Who will blink first?
The Shiv Sena will keep punching above its weight and needling the BJP over various issues and the BJP will have to grin and bear it, given that now it can afford even less than before to shake off its troublesome allyUpdated: Oct 30, 2019, 06:16 IST
The Shiv Sena dropped a few seats from its 2014 tally so why are Shiv Sainiks so gung-ho about the results?
The answer is already visible in the manner in which the party leaders are wishing to turn it around to seem like a victory and demanding 50:50 sharing of power is an indicator that the two allies are back to square one for the next five years – the Shiv Sena will keep punching above its weight and needling the BJP over various issues and the BJP will have to grin and bear it, given that now it can afford even less than before to shake off its troublesome ally.
The last time around, the Nationalist Congress Party was lurking in the background waiting to step in whenever needed to rescue the Devendra Fadnavis government at a moment’s notice. However, taking a lead over the Congress in the opposition, the party is now hardly likely to flirt with the BJP and the saffron allies will have to make the best of each other.
The final outcome depends on who blinks first, though looking at the current situation, it is unlikely that the BJP will concede the post of chief minister to the Shiv Sena for two-and-a-half years. I do not think Uddhav Thackeray is serious about that either. But in the past five years, considering how the Shiv Sena became part of the government, it had to be content with the crumbs on offer by the BJP. Pressing for an equal share in power is just a tool to bargain for the best deal in government – get the best departments in the state, considering it has very little hope of more than one ministry at the Centre.
The Sena might have conceded secondary position to the BJP this election, but it is in something Uddhav said soon after the results that shows the way the two allies will play it out in the future – “Our party has to grow too and we must get our fair share.”
That would mean no dud portfolios but the ones that help the party expand their bases. It is a fair ambition, even if the BJP might be reluctant, but this time around, the bigger ally will have to concede considering they fought the election together and, even if there was unrest among the cadres, posted a victory together.
Moreover, pressing for the office of chief minister is fraught with twin dangers. If the Sena were to gain that office, who would be the chief minister? Aaditya Thackeray might be highly unsuitable given his novice status and there are too many veterans in the party who might rebel at playing second fiddle to the third generation Thackeray in the government. Anointing anyone else would reduce the authority of the first elected Thackeray and it might be safer to groom Aaditya as Devendra Fadnavis’s deputy for a while before aiming higher.
Moreover, the party could split like it did during Bal Thackeray’s time, when his nephew Raj disregarded the sensibilities of elders in the party and thought he could automatically earn their deference. Uddhav is far too wise to risk such a possibility and that is why I believe this is a replay of the Congress and NCP wrestling during government formation in 2004. The NCP had unexpectedly won more seats, but Sharad Pawar could not risk pushing for the post of CM for fear of too much infighting among the stalwarts, who might have then walked over to the Congress. He conceded the CMO to the Congress, but the latter could not extract another significant department for itself.
Not quite the same between the Shiv Sena and the BJP, which will take the CMO and many significant portfolios. But it will have to concede more than it would otherwise have to its ally and be prepared for a fight every step of the way. Meanwhile, one hears on the grapevine, the Sena is pushing for a change of chief minister by the BJP and willing to make no further demands. Will the BJP buy peace at that price? There are no answers yet.