After days of speculation and suspense, the Shiv Sena finally snapped ties with the BJP and announced that it would contest the civic polls in Mumbai and other parts of the state on its own strength.
“From now on, the Shiv Sena will unfurl the saffron flag in Maharashtra on its own. I will not go to anyone with a begging bowl seeking an alliance,” said party president Uddhav Thackeray who was speaking at a party workers convention in Mumbai on Thursday.
“As the first step, we will not enter into any tie up for the municipal corporation and Zilla Parishad polls,” declared Uddhav, while effectively ruling out any pre-poll understanding with the BJP.
Despite biting attacks on the BJP and its leaders, he was however mum on if the Shiv Sena’s ministers in the state and Central governments would resign from their posts or if the party’s support to the Devendra Fadnavis-led dispensation in Maharashtra would continue.
“Of the Shiv Sena’s 50 year life, we have rotted away for 25 years in an alliance (with the BJP),” charged the Sena president, while lashing out at the BJP’s demand for 114 of the 227 seats in the Mumbai civic body, which is India’s richest.
He claimed that due to this alliance, the Shiv Sena had not contested seats in non-Maharashtrian areas or even other states to prevent a split in the Hindutva votes.
The Shiv Sena is upset at the BJP, which was earlier its junior ally in the saffron alliance, gaining the upper hand after the two parties went solo in the state assembly elections in 2014. While the BJP secured 122 seats, the Shiv Sena ended up as a distant number two with 63. Though it joined the Fadnavis government after a short stint on the opposition benches, Sena leaders admit that they are uncomfortable playing second fiddle to the BJP. The Shiv Sena also lost the edge in Mumbai, where it has 14 MLAs, one less than the BJP’s 15. This led to BJP leaders demanding that they get to contest from half of the BMC’s 227 seats considering the “changed situation on the ground.” However, the Sena was willing to part with just 60 seats compared to the 70 that were given to the BJP in 2012.
Meanwhile at the Goregaon rally, Uddhav likened the BJP to a Jalikattu bull and called on Shiv Sainiks to tame it. He also ridiculed the BJP’s demand for transparency in the BMC and lashed out at the state government’s missive to remove all religious imagery from its offices.
“If there was no Shiv Sena during the 1992-1993 (riots), would Mumbai be there today?” he questioned. Without naming Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Uddhav said it was the Shiv Sena supremo late Bal Thackeray’s support which had seen him through (in the upheaval after the 2002 Gujarat riots).
Shiv Sena sources said they were banking on the Maharashtrian vs non-Maharashtrian undercurrent after the Shiv Sena- BJP spilt to see them through in the BMC polls. This would also help the Sena overcome the anti-incumbency after ruling the cash-rich civic body for two decades (four consecutive terms).
“We tried to catch the BJP unawares like they did with us during the assembly polls before snapping ties,” the Sena source said, adding that despite the Modi wave, the Shiv Sena secured just one seat less than the BJP in Mumbai.
The party is also banking on an anti-BJP sentiment in the trading classes, who form one of the core constituencies of the BJP over the demonetisation exercise and claims that its Hindutva agenda will help swing these votes into their kitty.
Meanwhile, reacting to the Shiv Sena’s statements chief minister Devendra Fadnavis tweeted that for the BJP, power was not an end but a means for development and added that transformation would happen regardless of if someone joined hands with them or not.
Power aint our ultimate goal but a medium of devpt.We’ll take along those who come with us &leave aside who dont.Transformatn is inevitable!— Devendra Fadnavis (@Dev_Fadnavis) January 26, 2017
We pledge to walk on the path of transparency!
पारदर्शी मार्गाने वाटचाल हाच केवळ आमचा संकल्प!
हमारा संकल्प केवल और केवल पारदर्शीता का पथ है!— Devendra Fadnavis (@Dev_Fadnavis) January 26, 2017