Mumbai: The formidable saffron alliance, which withstood the test of time for the last 30 years, held together by the glue of Hindutva, has been torn asunder by the reluctance of one ally to share political space with the other on more equitable terms.
The alliance is tottering but both the BJP and the Shiv Sena stopped short of announcing its demise; it was akin to two partners having served the legal notice on each other but desisting from formally announcing the divorce.
So, even as hard-core saffron voters were keeping their fingers crossed, hoping that a favourable Ayodhya verdict may again bring them to the negotiating table, there was little room left for civility with Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray dubbing the BJP as a party of "liars".
The day started with CM Devendra Fadnavis tendering his resignation and addressing a press conference where he put the blame for failure to form a government squarely at the doorstep of Matoshree.
"We fought together as 'Mahayuti', but Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, in his first press conference (after election results), declared that all options on government formation are open... It was a shock for us," said Fadnavis, who has so far been restrained in his comments.
More important, he denied any verbal understanding with Uddhav on 50:50 partnership and the chief minister’s post. If there was such an understanding between Uddhav and Amit Shah, then it was a different matter.
Responding to the statement that there was "no discussion between the BJP and the Sena on sharing the post of CM", Thackeray shot back: "Amit Shah (BJP President) himself gave me this assurance. Now they're going back on their word. That's why we have stopped talking to liars.
"In his most stringent censure of the BJP in the last five years, Thackeray said: "I am accused of being a liar by Fadnavis. This is not acceptable to me. I cannot face my party and Sainiks with this slur.
A Sena CM was the promise I made to my father, the late Balasaheb Thackeray. We don't need the BJP, Shah or Fadnavis to achieve it.""Shah not only assured the 50:50 formula, but also agreed to equitable distribution of ministerial portfolios.
Now, Fadnavis is playing with words. They are trying to finish us off with their sweet talk. I am not going to make an alliance only for the post of Deputy CM," Thackeray thundered.
Both parties are still claiming they will form the next government led by leaders from their respective parties. For the BJP, solace may lie in the Ayodhya verdict – after all, there is no bigger adhesive than Hindutva.
The Modi-Shah dispensation can still avert the collapse of the alliance by finding a replacement for Fadnavis which is more amenable to Uddhav; and also by conceding his demand for equitable sharing of power.
For the record, Fadnavis will continue to be the caretaker CM till the dust settles down or the Governor places the Assembly in a state of suspended animation.
The indication coming from BJP sources is that it may prefer to go for fresh elections in Maharashtra after 6 months, which it will contest all on its own.
The communication between both parties had ceased more than 10 days back and all key leaders of the BJP are being denied entry at Matoshree, the residence of Uddhav Thackeray.
Bringing out the dichotomy in the BJP stand, Uddhav reminded his supporters that Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala had chided the BJP during the Haryana election campaign by saying in zest, ‘will two Guajaratis teach us nationalism.’
Now, the same BJP has embraced him, Thackeray pointed out.BJP's General Secretary, Organisation, B.L. Santhosh didn't mince words when he tweeted:
"Maharashtra CM Fadnavis made it clear that there was no discussion on 50:50 formula ...All issues raised in the last one week have been cleared in the press briefing ..
He has called the bluff..."With both sides out to call out each other's 'bluff', the tone and tenor has changed drastically. Is it time for a divorce?