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SEEMA MUSTAFA | 13 NOVEMBER, 2014

SHIV SENA IN OPPOSITION COULD BE SERIOUSLY PAINFUL FOR THE BJP IN MAHARASHTRA

Shiv Sena Symbol: Angry or just tired?


NEW DELHI: The Shiv Sena’s decision to sit in opposition in Maharashtra will not pose a danger to the BJP government in immediate terms, but will become a major pressure point causing acute discomfort---as well as pain-- as the weeks and months go by.

Amounting to opposition from within, the Shiv Sena against the government will be a force to reckon with as it comes from the same side of the fence as the BJP, and thus has the power to hurt more than the diluted responses from the fragmented Congress party.

In fact the Shiv Sena was the loudest in its ‘nays’ when the Fadnavis government won the voice vote in the Assembly. The NCP was muted, appearing to ‘abstain’ although this could not be tested in actual voting. Both the Sena and the Congress lodged a complaint against the decision not to allow a division vote which they insisted would have led to the defeat of the government on the floor of the House.

Earlier the Sena again registered its opposition to the BJP by fielding a candidate for the Speakers post, which it later withdrew along with that of the Congress to allow the BJP nominee Eknath Shinde to be elected Speaker. These pin pricks are expected to grow into more strident opposition in time, with the BJP still not closing the doors for talks with the Sena in Maharashtra.

Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray, estimated as weak, has clearly developed the courage to counter an ascendant BJP that can spell the ruin of his party. He has decided to sit in the opposition with his 63 legislators who with the 42 of the Congress and 41 of the Nationalist Congress party will make for a hefty 146 MLAs as against the 122 on the ruling benches.This will make the minority government, looking currently for support from Independents and smaller parties to get the requisite majority, more dependent on the opposition and even while unanimity amongst the opposition parties on any issue might be rare, it will still be sufficient to give Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and his government sleepless nights.

The Shiv Sena, according to sources, sees its future endangered with the rise of the BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It has not been able to develop a working relationship with the BJP president Amit Shah from the very beginning, and not being part of the Sangh Parivar even while espousing the same ideology, it is not shackled by the RSS or its diktat on these political issues. Nagpur has never been the headquarters for Shiv Sena with all roads leading to and stopping at the residence of late leader Bal Thackeray.

The Nationalist Congress party that has moved from party to party in extending support, is now in negotiations with the BJP. NCP leader Sharad Pawar has met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and while he has not officially confirmed it till date, the Maharashtra political grapevine is sufficiently weighed under with news of an ‘informal alliance.’ Sufficient to make the Shiv Sena ridicule the prospects with, “"Will the BJP save the govt with the help of rodents? The NCP is a party that is known to nibble at the state exchequer.” NCP countered with a weak, “ If Sena says NCP is a rat then who says Sena is a tiger? What happened to Uddhav's dream of becoming the CM?”

The NCP while preparing to bail out the BJP on important issues, such as the first confidence test it faces on the floor of the House, will in all likelihood not sit with it in alliance on the treasury benches. For one, Pawar would not like to close all his options in the state that a formal alliance would mean at this stage. He has been close to the Shiv Sena as well, and an alliance partner of the Congress party and will not give up the flexibility of these relations at this stage. And secondly, NCP has a majority of legislators in the Legislative Assembly and is now eyeing the Leader of Opposition post in the Upper House. If it gets this, the NCP will technically at least be part of the Opposition and its support for the BJP will thus, be limited to issues like the others.

The Shiv Sena has in the past worked directly with the Congress party as well. It has clearly not given up hope entirely as its mouthpiece Saamna continues to taunt the BJP for giving up on an ideologically affiliated party, and choosing the corrupt NCP instead. "BJP asks us to give it support on the basis of similar ideologies and principles. You (BJP) also know that the ideology of NCP is only to loot Maharashtra," the editorial stated. It went on to add,"but you (BJP) have nothing to do with that? You are ready to take their unconditional support," the Sena said while asking the BJP "on whose tunes it plans to dance now".

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