VENKATESH KESARI | 24 FEBRUARY, 2017
AURANGABAD: After retaining control on the Mumbai Municipal Corporation albeit with a slender lead, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has sounded the war bugle against the BJP that has spread its wings all across Maharashtra in the recently concluded BMC polls.
Thackeray’s first response, that was keenly awaited, was a defiant declaration that the next Chief Minister of Maharashtra would be from the Shiv Sena. He also staked claim to the post of the Mumbai Mayor.
The message, thus, is loud and clear that the Sena is worried about the BJP’s inroads into what it has regarded its bastion. And will not work in alliance with the larger party any longer.
The question now is whether the Shiv Sena will look to ally with the truncated Congress and the Nationalist Congress party, as well as with its own adjunct the MNS, to stop the rise of the BJP in Maharashtra. All three have fared poorly in the civic polls that usually set the trend for the state elections here.
For the BJP now, the Shiv Sena will be the target as it has fairly successfully decimated the Congress and NCP in the state. Sharad Pawar, once a Maratha leader, has been reduced to just a few decades with many of its senior leaders facing corruption charges. The Congress, ridden with factionalism, has become faceless in the state. The MNS has proved a non-starter.
The all powerful Maratha community which remained a strong support base of the Congress-NCP combine is becoming soft on the BJP in some districts of western Maharashtra (Sangli and Kolhapur) and in Marathawada ( Aurangabad,Jalna and Latur disrtricts) as demonestrated in the Zilla Parishad polls. Despite the anger over the reservation issue, the Marathas voted for the BJP in these areas.
Regional parties which have been controlling power in Maharashtra since 1995 (when the shiv sena-BJP came to power for the first time defeating the united Congress under the leadership of Sharad Pawar) till today have emerged leadersless from these local body elections.
Starngely, no major party in the state has a pan Maharashtra presence. While the NCP has no following in the Mumbai and Vidarbha regions, the Shiv Sena lacks appeal in Vidarbha and westen Maharashtra, and the BJP has yet to become relevant in Konkan. It is seen as a party of non Marathis in Mumbai. It posed a threat to the Shiv Sena in the BMC polls mainly due to the votes of Gujaratis, north Indians and others.
Political realignment is possible only if the Shiv Sena comes out of power in Maharashtra and forces a mid term poll in the state with the help of Congress,NCP and other parties. This is being talked of loosely in political circles.
According to the sources, the BJP gained ground in urban,semi urban and rural areas with the help of dissidents in other parties.This is not its real strength.
Interestingly, caste equations in the state too are changing with Marathas realising that they can win elections without the support of the minorities while Dalits too are comfortable with the saffron party as seen in Vidarbha, parts of Marathawada and in the Mumbai regions.
Uddhav Thackeray might have declared that the BJP will be his party's main political opponent but this passionate outburst has still to find itself a political strategy.