Shiv Sena: Sailing in two boats may take it nowhere in Maharashtra
Shiv Sena is pushing hard for chief minister’s post in Maharashtra
Shiv Sena says it is in touch with NCP for government formation
BJP-Shiv Sena alliance won 161 seats in Maharashtra Assembly election
The Shiv Sena may have turned the sweet victory of the BJP-led ruling alliance in Maharashtra Assembly election sour for its senior partner, but it has not brought cheers to anyone else either. The Shiv Sena continues to claim its right to the chief minister’s post, a demand that has seen it wrangle with friend BJP and extend olive branch to foe NCP.
The BJP has rejected the Shiv Sena’s demand for sharing of chief minister’s position on rotational basis in the next government. In the latest offer, the BJP agreed to promise allocation of plum portfolios including finance and revenue to the Shiv Sena.
The Shiv Sena had been insistent on chief minister’s post on rotational basis plus key portfolios such as home and urban development. The BJP state leadership is not ready to let go of home and urban development. The BJP is ready to give deputy chief minister’s post to the Shiv Sena.
The stalemate for more than 10 days has cast doubt over the possibility of forming a government before the Vidhan Sabha’s tenure ends later this week. While the BJP is seemingly playing a waiting game, the Shiv Sena has appeared to make frantic attempts at government formation.
The Shiv Sena has said it is in touch with NCP’s Sharad Pawar exploring the possibility of government formation in Maharashtra. This came a day after Sharad Pawar paid a sudden visit to Delhi holding discussion with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who is said to be against the idea of supporting a Shiv Sena government or becoming a part of such a ruling dispensation.
Interestingly, the Shiv Sena had earlier claimed to have support of 170 MLAs. Yet, when the Shiv Sena leaders met Maharashtra Governor BS Koshiyari, they did not stake claim to form government.
Sharad Pawar, on his part, said no formal proposal had come to the NCP from the Shiv Sena for government formation. However, reports have emerged claiming that the NCP has proposed to the Shiv Sena to offer it the same arrangement that it had offered to the BJP in 1995.
In 1995, the Shiv Sena had got the chief minister’s position while the BJP pocketed the deputy chief minister’s position. Ministries were allocated more or less and equal measure. Sharad Pawar is believed to have discussed this possibility with Sonia Gandhi on Monday.
However, Sonia Gandhi is uncomfortable with the idea of having a truck with the Shiv Sena. The Congress both the state and the national leadership is also of the view that any talks for government formation with the Shiv Sena can happen only after Uddhav Thackeray’s party declares complete dissociation with the BJP.
This is where the Shiv Sena finds it most uncomfortable. The party does not want to burn all bridges leading it to the BJP. This is also evident from the Shiv Sena’s reported outreach to the RSS for a negotiating a possible truce with the BJP. Some reports said that the Shiv Sena specifically wanted Union minister Nitin Gadkari to oversee the power-sharing negotiation with the BJP.
The BJP and the RSS are, however, unhappy with the way the Shiv Sena has tried to blackmail the party after election results left it dependent on its ally for majority in the Maharashtra Assembly. RSS mouthpiece Tarun Bharat, in its Monday editorial, lashed out at the Shiv Sena, particularly its national spokesperson Sanjay Raut who is the most trusted lieutenant of party chief Uddhav Thackeray, comparing them to Vikram and Betal (king Vikram and his ghost).
This, if at all an indication in shift of stance in the BJP-RSS camp, does not augur well for the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in Maharashtra. Many in the BJP see the Shiv Sena testing its patience as the deadline for government formation approaches fast. They are of the view that the BJP should explore its options, including reaching out to the NCP.
The NCP had offered support to the BJP in 2014, when it fell 23 short of the majority mark. Despite the bitterness of the election campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and NCP chief Sharad Pawar share a very good personal rapport.
There are suggestions that the Maharashtra political crisis would end the moment PM Modi picks up the phone and dials Sharad Pawar’s number. In the past, PM Modi had praised Sharad Pawar for holding his hand and showing the ways of politics when he was new in Gujarat as chief minister.
But for a BJP-NCP alliance, the party leadership has to make a decision if it wants to snap ties with the Shiv Sena forever. That could be a huge gamble for both the parties as they thrive on largely shared vote bank based on Hindutva.
For the NCP, it would be easier to be a partner in government with the BJP. Sharad Pawar, in that case, would not have to act as the troubleshooter caught between the Shiv Sena and the Congress. A BJP-NCP alliance may damage the Shiv Sena’s prospects in Maharashtra for the long term direct fallout of its attempt to sail in two boats of politics.