Big brother BJP wants to cut Shiv Sena to size

Sitting pretty at 122 seats, the single largest party in the Assembly elections has decided to show the Shiv Sena its place; the BJP’s terms for patch up after their brief separation no deputy chief minister’s post or even key ministries for Shiv Sena

The election results have given the BJP a stick to beat the Shiv Sena with, and it seems bent on using it till it breaks. Even as the two estranged allies, on the record, waited for a proposal from the other to work out the terms of a new partnership, BJP leaders told mid-day that they are going to ensure that the party makes no compromises to accommodate the Shiv Sena.

Devendra Fadnavis, who is tipped to be the next CM of Maharashtra, celebrates with supporters yesterday
Devendra Fadnavis, who is tipped to be the next CM of Maharashtra, celebrates with supporters yesterday

The message that has gone out to the top leadership from senior BJP leaders in the state and in Delhi is, in fact, quite brutal: Cut the Sena to size. As part of their crusade to do so, senior BJP leaders have asked top leaders like party chief Amit Shah and PM Narendra Modi to not only deprive the Sena of the post of deputy chief minister, which the regional party is said to have demanded in back-channel talks, but also of the five key portfolios of home, revenue, urban development, housing and finance.

Uddhav Thackeray said last evening that he would wait for the BJP ‘to make the first move’
Uddhav Thackeray said last evening that he would wait for the BJP ‘to make the first move’

“The fact is that we need the support of only 23 additional MLAs to form the government and it makes no sense for us to give the Sena the post of deputy CM or any of the important portfolios.

A BJP poster outside its Nariman Point office during the post-election celebrations. Pic/Bipin Kokate
A BJP poster outside its Nariman Point office during the post-election celebrations. Pic/Bipin Kokate

A government cannot run when key ministries like home and revenue are under the control of an ally a fact that the previous Congress-NCP government in the state aptly demonstrated,” said a senior BJP leader.

Position of power
The BJP found itself in an even stronger position post-afternoon when senior NCP leader Praful Patel unexpectedly announced the party’s “unconditional” support to the BJP in the “interests of Maharashtra”. Senior BJP leaders said the party was well aware that the Sena needs it much more than it needs the Sena.

Illustrations/Amit Bandre
Illustrations/Amit Bandre

“The Sena needs to ally with BJP to stay in power in the BMC and to be part of the NDA government under Narendra Modi. It also needs to be a part of the ruling dispensation in the state to strengthen its base in rural areas. Hence, we have told the top leadership to concede nothing that would help the Shiv Sena consolidate its position in Maharashtra. We don’t want a rejuvenated Sena,” said a senior leader.

Chief too
While both the Sena and the BJP ensured that no leader spoke against the other in public yesterday, BJP president Amit Shah did make a few statements in his afternoon press conference that indicated that the way that the party had been treated by the Sena had left a bad taste in the BJP’s mouth.

Pointing out that the BJP had not ended the alliance with the Sena, Shah said, “We have won more seats than the Sena in Maharashtra and the HJC in Haryana wanted to give us as their allies.” “They ended a 25-year-long relationship for just three seats… and now it has been proved who was in the right and justified,” the BJP chief added.

The issues on forming the government were expected to be discussed in a meeting of the party’s parliamentary board last evening. Party sources said the inputs of central leaders Rajiv Pratap Rudy and O P Mathur, who were handling the state affairs during the elections, will be key and that both leaders were unlikely to recommend a big role for the Sena in the state government after their first-hand experience of dealing with the former ally.

NCP dilemma
Despite its seemingly strong position, the BJP also finds itself between a rock and a hard place. The prospect of allying with the NCP, which it might have to do if a deal with the Sena does not work out, has also seen opposition from at least two groups within the state unit.

“It will be difficult for us to ally with a party that has faced charges of corruption. Even PM Modi had described the NCP as a Naturally Corrupt Party in his speeches. If we ally with the NCP or take outside support from it, opposition parties may corner us and put is in an embarrassing situation,” said a party leader.

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