The Shiv Sena’s shot in the dark
The fact that it is in power again with the BJP should come as a dampener to its future prospects, given the anti-incumbency and other factors that are both racking and wrecking the ruling partyUpdated: Feb 20, 2018 17:06 IST
Did diamantaire Nirav Modi really fund the BJP’s 2014 election campaign, as the Shiv Sena alleges? That could just be a shot in the dark. But the kind of statements the Shiv Sena has been making against its so-called ally in government since then leaves less and less room for a reconciliation between the two parties. Perhaps the harshest statement is the one wherein the Saamana said in its editorial that the BJP’s anti-corruption plank lies in tatters after the episode. Various Shiv Sena leaders have since gleefully dropped hints that the USP of the BJP may be finally over and that the 2019 elections now may be open season for all.
I never cease to be amazed by how circumstances usually conspire to make it easy for the Shiv Sena, politically and electorally. Right from Bal Thackeray’s time, the Sena has been a party that has thrived on the errors of its political rivals (usually the Congress), never having had any programme of its own to propel it to power. When it first gained a full majority in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation in 1985, it was helped by the contretemps between then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and then Maharashtra chief minister Vasantdada Patil that led the latter to allege, quite without basis, that the PM was intending to turn Bombay into a city state. Thackeray got just the issue he needed and, over time, there were others. The 1992-93 riots that the then Congress government bungled and was unable to control for days was another such instance that soon propelled the Sena to power in the state which, however, it could not sustain for more than one term -- it had nothing to show of its own and no errors of rivals to piggy back on for a second term.
The fact that it is in power again with the BJP should come as a dampener to its future prospects, given the anti-incumbency and other factors that are both racking and wrecking the ruling party. Somehow, though, the Sena has managed to keep its distance from those blunders, be it issues relating to farmers, including their suicides (which Uddhav Thackeray has been constantly needling the BJP about) and now this growing feeling of disquiet among common people at the continuing corruption in high places and its scale and ease.
It was not surprising then that the Shiv Sena should stall the signing of an MoU for the proposed west coast refinery at the Magnetic Maharashtra summit taking place in its backyard in Bandra. Of course, that was some tit-for-tat for not being invited to the event as also to the ground-breaking ceremony for the new airport at Navi Mumbai and that was a sore point of resentment. I am, however, surprised at how the BJP could play into the Sena’s hands on this one. Even if it was an inadvertent error, it only helps the Shiv Sena to play victim to the hilt. Victimhood has always been the Shiv Sena’s USP and here it has also helped it to seem more caring of people’s concerns.
Now, however, whatever it might say about Nirav Modi and the BJP, in Bal Thackeray’s time, there was much proximity between the Sena chief and jewellers. Thackeray had openly accompanied some members of his family to buy some jewellery at an upmarket store -- that itself was such an amazing thing for a politician of his stature to do that it caused a minor sensation. The Shiv Sena was in power in the state at the time and it was a risk Thackeray was taking to so openly associate with a jeweller. But clearly the stir was more about his unusual presence in such a store than anything that may have been bought or sold. However, that does make me wonder now if the Sena knows a lot more about the relationship between jewellers and political parties than we give them credit for.
Strangely, the Shiv Sena has been able to be both discreet and open about such relationships. Even then Thackeray had dismissed his store visit as a family shopping spree with nothing to hide (though we never got to know what was bought or sold and at what cost). That kind of chutzpah is missing from today’s politicians. The BJP could perhaps borrow a bit of that from the Shiv Sena, today the only party which knows how to have its cake and eat it too!
First Published: Feb 20, 2018 17:06 IST