VENKATESH KESARI | 13 FEBRUARY, 2017
MUMBAI: "Everybody who is born has a janam patrika(horoscope). The PM must not forget this. Even we have his and Amit Shah's janam kundli," said Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, taking off from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s warning to the Congress to ‘behave’ as he had the horoscopes of the entire family that could be unravelled if required.
The defence for the Congress came from this unexpected quarter, and follows widespread speculation in Mumbai that the Congress party and the Nationalist Congress party are unofficially backing the SS in the crucial battle for the richest civic body, the 227-seat Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) scheduled for February 21.
The SS has parted ways with the BJP with the realisation that the latter is eating rapidly into its space in Mumbai and the BMC that it has controlled since 1985. A defeat here for the SS will be the beginning of its end.
Well aware of this, Thackeray is moving fast to not just distance the SS from the BJP, but to target PM Modi and BJP President Amit Shah directly. Both have been at the receiving end of his anger, and while the BJP continues to insist all is well, the Shiv Sena and its leader have discarded the fig leaf a while ago.
The BMC has a Rs 37,000 crore budget and the Shiv Sena has been content in controlling this civic body, without spending undue time in trying to spread its reach across Maharashtra per se. It is not a pan Maharashtra party, but this fact does not seem to bother the party and its leadership that has remained content in keeping BMC under its control for decades now. Significantly this will be the first time in 20 years that the SS will not be contesting in alliance with the BJP.
The SS however remains in alliance with the BJP at the centre, where it has one Minister. When asked about this by reporters Thackeray said not very convincingly,"Have they asked us to get out? If they don't like us, they can leave. But they are stuck.”He added, however, that the party will take a decision on this after the local civic polls and its performance therein.
But the SS is doing little to keep the BJP on its side provoking even Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis recently to describe it as a “party of criminals.” Just a few days ago its mouthpiece Saamna praised the governance of the Manmohan Singh government, with the SS cadres being given a clear signal that in these civic polls the BJP and not necessarily the Congress or the NCP will be their enemy Number One.
In what was clearly a deliberate move to further aggravate the BJP, and more specifically PM Modi and Shah, Thackeray went to make common cause with Patidar leader Hardik Patel in Gujarat. Patel had been jailed for several months by the BJP state government for his opposition to the party leadership, and now that is finally back from exile in Rajasthan is being wooed by several Opposition parties. That the NDA ally has joined in felicitating the Pattidar youth is a statement that has not been missed by the BJP.
February 21 will be a make or break day for the Shiv Sena, with this civic election probably more important for it than the state elections at this point in time. The BJP has strengthened in the state, and under cover of the alliance, is moving rapidly to build its own base in the state. A BMC victory is crucial thus for the BJP, but unlike the SS it can withstand a defeat at this stage. The Shiv Sena, on the other hand, cannot even afford to come in the second place and needs a victory to keep itself relevant.
It is perhaps with this in mind that both the Congress and the NCP leaders have been predicting a SS win in the BMC, an indication that both parties have developed a vested interest in defeating the BJP by ensuring the victory of their other rival in the state.