The Shiv Sena is weighing its options in the wake of the triple poll jolt suffered by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the heartland. The Sena’s biggest concern is: Will the vote against the BJP, its ally in Maharashtra, sink its ship too? Political observers say the Sena is likely to get more aggressive against the BJP in the coming days.
The party’s cautious response to the Congress victory and a carefully calibrated statement by Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray have sent out the signal that the party is wary of the Congress revival. The Sena spokesperson termed the poll results in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh not so much a victory of Congress as an expression of the people’s anger against the BJP.
Though the Sena may get more aggressive against the BJP, it is unlikely to walk out of the government. Its dilemma is whether to go for anti-BJP votes or consolidate its existing support base in 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 Maharashtra assembly elections, due next September. The Sena is also expected to step up its efforts in rural areas where there is discontent over the agrarian crisis. So far, the Sena was eyeing anti-BJP votes in an attempt to regain its senior-partner status in Maharashtra. However, with the Congress in revival mode, it is likely to forge an alliance with the BJP.
There is no official word on an alliance yet but a section of the Sena leadership is keen on one. Nearly a year ago, the Sena had announced that it would contest all future elections without tying up with the BJP. But BJP leaders in the state have publicly showed interest in a pre-poll alliance with the Sena. “It is in the interest of the Sena to go with the BJP. There are two reasons for that — first, to keep Congress-Nationalist Congress Party at bay; and second, despite the ground-level presence, the party is not that strong in certain regions to go solo. We can demand better in this changed political scenario. The decision rests with Uddhav ji,” 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. “Shiv Sena did not get carried away with the BJP. On the contrary, because of Shiv Sena, a number of issues have been resolved — from farm loan waivers to reservation for Marathas. Had Sena not taken a stand, even this government would not have done it. Therefore, Shiv Sena will be treated differently by the people,” he said.
Political analyst Prakash Bal said relations between the two parties had improved in the last few months and a future 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,” he said.
The Centre had failed to get tangible results in terms of better wages for labourers or better prices for farmers’ produce. “Asset creation has happened in the last four years; roads, toilets, houses have been built, but there is no rise in the income of the people — the wage labourer or the farmers — and that anger is reflected in voting pattern. A similar situation is in Maharashtra. Asset creation is an output, but what’s the outcome? The Fadnavis-govt has not done it, nor has BJP leadership achieved it at national level,” he said.
First Published: Dec 13, 2018 00:08 IST
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