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To be or not to be with BJP: Shiv Sena dilemma

Shiv Sena is weighing its options, may get more aggressive, but won’t walk out of the government

mumbai Updated: Dec 13, 2018 00:32 IST
Swapnil Rawal
Swapnil Rawal
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,BJP,Shiv Sena
A statement by Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday indicated the party was wary of the revival of the Congress(HT file photo)

In the wake of the Assembly elections in three states, where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost to the Congress, their ally Shiv Sena is now weighing its options. Their biggest concern: Will the vote against the BJP sink its ship too? This, according to political observers, is expected to make the party more aggressive against the BJP in the coming days.

The party’s cautious response to the Congress’ victory in the Hindi belt and a carefully calibrated statement by Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday indicated the party was wary of the revival of the Congress. The party spokesperson described the results as a reflection of the anger of the people against the BJP, and not a victory of the Congress.

Although the party is likely to get more aggressive against ally BJP, it is unlikely to walk out of the government.

The party’s dilemma is whether to go for anti-BJP votes or to consolidate its existing support base by forging an alliance with the BJP. In case of the latter, the party will use the BJP’s poor performance to its advantage while negotiating for seats for the Assembly elections in Maharashtra.

The Sena is also expected to step up its efforts in rural areas, where the BJP fell short. Just like neighbouring states, there is discontent in rural areas, especially with the agrarian crisis.

The Sena was eyeing anti-BJP votes until now in an attempt to regain its senior partner status in Maharashtra. However, with the Congress’ turnaround in the three states, the party is likely to forge an alliance with the BJP.

While there is no official word on an alliance, a section of the Sena leadership is keen on one. Nearly a year ago, the Sena had announced that henceforth it will contest all elections without an alliance with the BJP. On the other hand, the BJP leaders in the state have publicly showed interest in a pre-poll alliance with the Sena.

“It is in the interest of the party to go with the BJP. There are two reasons. First, to keep the Congress-NCP at bay, and second, despite ground-level presence, the party is not strong in certain regions to go solo. We can demand better in this changed political scenario. However, the decision rests with Uddhavji,” a Sena functionary said.

Sena spokesperson and MP from south Mumbai Arvind Sawant said his party’s performance is not likely to be impacted by anti-BJP votes. “The Shiv Sena did not get carried away with the BJP. On the contrary, because of the Sena, a large number of issues, from farm loan waivers to reservation for Marathas, were resolved. Had the Shiv Sena not taken a stand even this government would not have done it. So people will treat the Sena differently,” he said.

Political analyst Prakash Bal said the relations between the two parties have improved in the past few months and an alliance is on the cards. “The Sena will use this [BJP’s defeat] to extract their pound of flesh when they sit for discussion…The common ground of Hindutva was created for an alliance,” Bal said.

He said the BJP-led government has failed to get tangible results in terms of better wages for labourers or better prices for farmers’ produce. “Asset creation has happened in the past four years, roads, toilets, houses have been built, but there is no rise in people’s income, be it a daily wage labourer or farmers. That anger is reflected in the voting pattern. The situation is the same in Maharashtra. Asset creation is an output, but what is the outcome? Neither has the Fadnavis-government done it, nor has the BJP leadership achieved it at the national level,” Bal said.

According to Sena leaders, they are now expected to step up their efforts in rural areas. “We don’t want political mileage from the agrarian crisis. Uddhavji has already asked party leaders to start work on drought relief. We will continue that,” a Sena leader said.

First Published: Dec 13, 2018 00:22 IST