Free Press Journal

Shiv Sena-MNS Bout: A Coup de Grâce


Just a week prior to the Diwali celebrations, the Shiv Sena, largest single party in the Mumbai Municipal Corporation, burst an atom bomb in the camp of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) by engineering one of the worst split in which Six of the Seven City Fathers  from the party jumped in to the Sena Ship.

Actually the Sena Party Chief Uddhav Thackeray used a Double Barrel Gun in this event. By one shot it hit the MNS near fatally and by the other also injured the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that has been ruling the state and the nation. In February 2017 elections, the Sena returned 84 members and the BJP fell just two seats short of becoming the single largest party. However, post elections, the Sena managed support from four more members while the BJP received support of two more. In the situation of wafer-thin majority for the Sena, it was obvious that the BJP would have made efforts to gather a few more votes and grab the power in the Mumbai City Hall. Sensing the potential threat, Uddhav engineered the coup and almost finished the existence of the MNS from the civic body.

Now the situation is that the Sena has surged ahead with six more votes and thus made it near impossible for the BJP to overturn Sena’s rule in Mumbai. The question now arises as to how do the BJP reacts to this situation. Hurt by the relentless criticism by the Sena leadership and its mouth-organ, ‘Saamana’, there is a mounting pressure on the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and other BJP leaders to act against the Sena. The BJP is left with a few options. one is it continues to play, second fiddle in the Mumbai Body, two is to manage a split in the Congress and / or NCP camps to become the largest single party and three is to get a dozen Sena MLAs under its wings and then snap ties with the Sena in the Government. Fadnavis must be toying with all options.

MNS Reduced to One

The problem is however with the MNS. In 2012 Civic elections, the MNS had bagged 27 seats, they were reduced to seven in 2017. Seven MNS corporators were elected to the civic body in February and included Archana Bhalerao, Parmeshwar Tukaram Kadam, Ashwini Matekar, Sanjay Turde, Harshala Ashish More, Ashish Chemburkar, Dattaram Shivaram Narvankar. All except Sanjay Turde have now joined Shiv Sena. Is it a jolt from the blue to the party leadership?

Though on surface of it, this looks like true. Those who know the party working and the mind-set of its workers and leaders, also know that a severe dissidence was brewing in the inner circles against the MNS Chief Raj Thackeray, thanks to his working style and  behavioural pattern of his close and ‘trusted’ lieutenants. Those who know the party structure from within also knew that the revolt was bound to happen sooner than later.

After a grand start from 2009 elections, when the MNS elected 13 MLAs in its first attempt and later put up a grand show in various civic elections in 2012 The party has been on a back-foot ever since. Not only that it lost its power in the Nasik Civic elections, but also lost Assembly bout in 2014 heavily where its strength came down to a lone MLA. The mass defection at the BMC level seems to be a brutal jolt to the MNS leadership.

Curiously, Raj Thackeray seems to have left the job to his trusted and obedient colleagues, who are performing their ‘duty’ to their best. However, neither the party spokesmen nor Raj himself can hide the fact that the party is on the verge of collapse and now it would be a herculean task to rebuild it from ashes. Do Raj or his coterie have the guts, patience and willingness to work relentlessly to bring the MNS back to rail and make it a force to reckon with?

To Make Up for Electoral Failure

Now a question for the jubilant Shiv Sena. It is obvious that the Sena leadership and their followers are more than happy to celebrate their ‘victory’ that they had grossly missed in the elections. The unfortunate fact that the Sena had engineered a coup to make up for its failure in putting up a great show in the elections, may bring smiles on the faces of its leaders and followers but there is every possibility that this move could boomerang sooner than later. In case, the ruling BJP so decides to make Sena Corporators or MLAs to defect to it, what would Sena say? They would have to take the role of moot spectators and sufferers as defection is always a two-edge weapon. It can work against Sena also, if not handled with care. Is Sena prepared for such an eventuality particularly when many party MLAs, unhappy with their leaders’ language and attitude have shown readiness in private to cross floor? Off course, they will have to resign their seats and face the electorate again. But if they are prepared for such an eventuality, what would Sena leadership do?

Every revolution comes with a threat of counter-revolution. The same is the case with coup. The Sena leadership would have to get prepared and ready to face ‘counter-coup’ that seems to be imminent, in today’s context. During the time of French Revolution, a term ‘coup de grâce’ was coined to describe killing of your own soldiers to save their grâce. Is it that a time has come in a limited context to term the developments in near future as ‘coup de grâce’? Only time will prove and thus let’s wait and watch!

The author is a poltical analyst and a Member of Parliament.