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Monday, Nov 18, 2019

Shiv Sena weighs its options

mumbai Updated: Nov 09, 2019 01:23 IST
Swapnil Rawal
Swapnil Rawal

The Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Friday evening started hectic parleys to explore the possibility of a coalition between the two parties, with support from the Congress.

With Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray firm on not resuming talks until the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) admits to having gone back on its word, the option before his party is to join forces with the Sharad Pawar-led party and its ally, Congress, to form a government in the state.

According to a senior Sena functionary, re-negotiations with the BJP can begin if the BJP concedes to the Sena’s demand for a chief minister for two-and-a-half-years. Thackeray categorically stated he would not open talks with the BJP, if it doesn’t accept they lied that there were no talks on the CM’s post. “The only way out is if the central leadership of the BJP calls him, accepts their mistake and goes ahead with what was decided,” a Sena functionary said.

The party, however, is looking at going ahead with the NCP.

Sena leaders said a coalition with the NCP and Congress, although tough, is a possible alternative. Sena leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut, who has initiated talks with Pawar, met the veteran leader again on Friday in an attempt to strike a formula, as developments unfolded thick and fast in Mumbai.

The hitch, however, for the Sena is the Congress leadership is not keen to extend support to the hardline Hindutva party, even though its legislators are open to back it to keep the BJP out of power.

The Sena leadership is not wary of allying with political parties from the other end of ideological spectrum.

The Sena chief on Friday hinted that the BJP allied with parties they had ideological differences with, but were accepted by people. On being asked if it would ally with the Congress, which had coined the term “Hindu terror”, he said, “It is a good question, but then if a political party wears a mask of Hindutva and lies, is that the right kind of Hindutva? If they (BJP) can form a government with Mufti Mohammad, with Nitish Kumar, ally Ram Vilas Paswan, all is acceptable. How can what they do only be termed correct?”

A party functionary said the Sena, Congress and NCP could device a narrative to solve the ideological dilemma. “The government can be formed on a common minimum programme. The parties will come together after the single largest party declined to form the government. We (Sena) could form a government with them (Congress and NCP) to provide a government at a time when farmers are in distress. People accepted the BJP even after allying with the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir. Why are questions only being directed towards us,” he asked.

The Sena, if it chooses to ally with the NCP and Congress, would have to show its seriousness by quitting the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. The Sena’s lone minister at the Centre would have to tender his resignation.

The Sena, which runs the Mumbai civic body with the outside support of the BJP, will have to factor in the repercussions there. The control over the BMC, which has a budget more than some state governments in India, is one of the key sources of fund for the Sena. The BJP has gained seats in the BMC and has a sizable number in the civic body.

“It is true that their numbers are significant in the BMC, but we have worked hard to keep our hold on it. We will do so the next time too,” another Sena functionary said. The BMC election is due in 2022.