VENKATESH KESARI | 3 JUNE, 2018

Bitter Sweet Palghar: BJP Wins But Continues to Woo Belligerent Shiv Sena

BJP worried about political isolation


NEW DELHI: Despite winning the Palghar Lok Sabha seat, it is the BJP that is worried about the alliance with the Shiv Sena that has announced its decision to go solo in the 2019 polls. This despite some speculation in the mainstream television media that the Shiv Sena would be reaching out to mend fences with the BJP that seems to be swallowing its base in Maharashtra.

The Palghar Lok Sabha by poll saw heated exchanges between Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and the Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on " saam, dam, dand, bhed ", the charge broadcast by the Sena chief against the CM and the BJP.

Palghar, incidentally, is a BJP seat as the sitting MP Chintaman Wanga had won from this constituency with an impressive number of votes. The bypoll was necessitated due to his sudden death.

The Shiv Sena fielded Wanga’s son Shrinivas, and the BJP had to nominate Congress rebel Rajendra Gavin as it could not get its own workers to contest this seat.

However, the BJP victory has not changed the Shiv Sena’s belligerent stand. "Saamna, the Shiv Sena's mouthpiece gave the headline(June 1,2018) to its report on the bypoll results , "BJP che Gire to Bhi Taang Upar, Palgharat Ghasun Jinkle,Bhandara-Gondiyt Thasun Padle" (BJP has a habit of taking credit of everything even after the defeat. It won the Palghar seat narrowly but lost the Bhandara-Gondia seat with a huge margin of votes ).

The Shiv Sena has already announced that it will go solo in the Lok Sabha and the Maharashtra assembly elections next year making it clear that the current alliance with the BJP will end on the day election dates are announced.But the BJP--from its chief Amit Shah to Fadnavis-continues to insist that the alliance should continue.

What is the BJP’s compulsion? Is it because of the Congress-NCP alliance that won them the Bhandara-Gondia seat, or the fear of a split in the Hindu vote bank, or insecurity about the efficacy of the Modi card in the face of anger amongst the youth, farmers, lower middle class against the ruling party?

Despite the Shiv Sena’s high decibels, the opposition parties do not see the alliance with the BJP breaking. They view the Shiv Sena's attack on Narendra Modi-Amit Shah as just press tactics. Nationalist Congress Party leader and former deputy chief minister Amit Pawar predicted that the Uddhav Thackeray led party would remain with the BJP if it agrees to share the Chief Ministers post for half the term each with the Sena.

The Shiv Sena would not have turned into the bitter critic of the BJP and the PM had they offered plum ministries in the state and at the Centre to it,including the Deputy CM's post, according to Pawar and other opposition leaders from the state. Significantly, the Shiv Sena itself has no answer to a question as to why it is is sticking to power in Maharashtra if it is indeed as opposed to the policies of the PM and the CM as it claims.

The BJP, on its part, has realized that without the alliance with the Shiv Sena it could get isolated in Maharashtra with all other political parties coming together against it in the forthcoming polls. Congress-NCP, the Left, the Janata parivar in the state, some Dalit organisations and the PWP are all in talks with the Sena also claiming to be part of this discourse from time to time.

Interestingly, it was the BJP which broke the alliance during the Maharashtra assembly polls held in October 2014 on seat sharing after refusing to be the junior ally of the Shiv Sena. Today it is scrambling to keep the alliance together in what are going to be make or break elections next year.
 

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