Despite its decisions to snap ties with the BJP for the elections to the BMC and other civic bodies in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena may not withdraw from the Devendra Fadnavis-led government. Hence, the party may continue to stand on the two stools of being in power yet trying to appropriate the opposition space by launching vitriolic attacks on this very government.
“Our stance is clear. We have supported the government because we do not want Maharashtra to be unstable as this will hurt the farmers and the working class,” said Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP and party leader Sanjay Raut, while however adding that it was not possible to say till when this “support” will continue.
The Shiv Sena has five cabinet ministers and seven ministers of state in the Fadnavis government. Its Raigad- Ratnagiri MP Anant Geete is the heavy industries minister in the Narendra Modi government.
Shiv Sena sources admit that despite the acrimony, the party, which has been in the opposition since 1999, will continue to be on the treasury benches as part of the Fadnavis government due to the obvious political costs of withdrawing from power.
Speaking at a party convention on Thursday evening, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had announced that the Shiv Sena was snapping 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.
Like Uddhav Thackeray saheb announced that he was snapping the alliance, a similar announcement (about quitting the government) is possible,” said Raut, adding that Shiv Sena ministers had already announced their willingness to quit their ministerial berths once the party high command ordered them to.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena ministers Ramdas Kadam, Dr Deepak Sawant, Subhash Desai and Diwakar Raote met Fadnavis to protest a state government ban on display of religious pictures or celebration of religious festivals in government and semi-government officials.
Kadam charged that Sena ministers had not been taken into confidence on the issue despite being in government. He added that Fadnavis had promised them that the circular, which had been issued by the rural development department instead of the general administration department, would be withdrawn and action would be taken against the officials concerned.
The Shiv Sena is upset at the BJP, which was earlier it’s 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 that 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, upping the ante against the Shiv Sena, BJP Lok Sabha MP Kirit Somaiya said they would release a “black paper” on the misadministration and “mafiagiri” in the Sena run BMC, which is the richest civic body in India. “We cannot help it if anyone is feeling inconvenienced by our demand for transparency,” he told dna.
Incidentally, the Shiv Sena and BJP have ruled the BMC since 1997. In 1985, the Sena romped to power in the BMC on its own and in 1989, the Shiv Sena and the BJP entered into an alliance in Maharashtra. However, during the 1992 BMC elections, the saffron alliance split with the two parties going their own way. This led to the Congress wresting control over the civic body.