The Shiv Sena has taken on the role of the opposition in the state, bagged Leader of the Opposition status in the state assembly and adopted an aggressive posture. Is there still hope for a patch-up with its ally, the BJP, despite the fact that the two keep hitting out at each other every now and then? The question may sound ridiculous, but the political climate in the state has become so murky that those close to power circles have not stopped hoping for a patch-up. The Sena has not spared the BJP ever since they broke up, but the BJP which has been mostly silent over the Sena and has not given in to the latter’s demands after it set up the minority government.
The NCP president, Sharad Pawar, is a major player in state politics, though his party failed to retain its seats in the recent assembly elections. He has been playing hide and seek with the BJP, assuring unconditional support from outside for its government in the state one moment and predicting the likelihood of snap polls the next. He did retract his snap poll statement, but it is only seen as another example of his old blow-hot-blow-cold strategy, which he successfully used against his poll ally, the Congress Party, to extract a better deal during their 15 year-partnership. However, his magic may not work again, since, unlike the Congress, the BJP is not completely relying on his outside support and can fall back on the Sena’s willingness to join hands despite all the bad blood between them so far.
Those familiar with Delhi happenings say that the BJP high command was reconsidering the arrangements in Maharashtra and this may have prompted Pawar to talk about snap polls. There is a powerful section within the BJP which feels that the party must amend its ways and pacify the Sena without depending on Pawar, who is known for his Machiavellian moves that floor friends and foes alike.
With the beginning of Parliament’s winter session, the BJP floor managers have suddenly realised they need to muster support to ensure the smooth passage of several important bills in both Houses. Though it has the required majority in the Lok Sabha, it is not in such a comfortable position in the Rajya Sabha and support from the Sena is welcome.
Even if it wants to call a joint session of Parliament to ensure the smooth passage of some of the important financial bills, it will require the Sena’s presence in the Lok Sabha. The Sena has not withdrawn its only representative in the Union Cabinet – Anant Geete. The party maintains that it can manage inclusion in Delhi and opposition in Maharashtra and such a position is not at all contradictory. Ultimately, it will need support from the central government to ensure development of the state.
The opposition, especially the Left and Socialist parties, have decided to muster support and corner the Modi Government when the insurance bill will come up for consideration. The Congress, which moved it during the Manmohan Singh Government’s tenure, is uncertain over the issue.
The Sena has assured the Modi Government that though it has several issues to settle in Mumbai, it will support the passage of the bill. The BJP floor managers are happy over the announcement of Sena support for the NDA agenda during the winter session of Parliament. It is a great relief to the BJP, which finds itself being targeted by the opposition parties on various issues, like the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC boycotting the tea party hosted by Prime Minister Modi. The Sena feels that now with the realisation that all is not well in Delhi, as well as in Maharashtra, the BJP will treat it better. It is not yet clear though, whether the Sena will ultimately join the Devendra Fadnavis Government in Maharashtra. Were it to give up its claim as Leader of the Opposition in the assembly and join the government, that would be a first.
The confusing signals from both sides makes it clear that there is a communication gap and a total disconnect, with the national level leaders unaware of what is happening at the ground level. The BJP minister, Chandrakant Patil, from Kolhapur is announcing that there is possibility of the Sena being accommodated, with a ministerial berth at the time of cabinet expansion before the winter session of the state legislature in Nagpur next month.
During his meeting with party president Amit Shah, the possibility of accommodating the Sena in the next state cabinet expansion was discussed by CM Fadnavis. Such an initiative would not be possible without clearance from Delhi. Fadnavis is confident that he will be able to persuade the Sena to join his cabinet and give up its insistence on the post of deputy chief minister. Both parties, it would appear, are tired of unending talks and are seeking some kind of face-saving measure to arrive at a consensus. Neither wants to be perceived as having ceded more ground than the other. Even if the Sena were to ultimately join the government and end the uncertainty, it is to be seen how far there will be a union of minds to work together for the state. Or else it will just be another replay of sweating the small stuff, as was the case with its predecessor.
Prakash Bal Joshi
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