It seems that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) believes in the adage ‘Keep your friends close, but your enemies even closer’. That’s the reason why despite the BJP and the Shiv Sena breaking their 25-year-old saffron alliance and contesting the state assembly elections independently, the BJP is likely to give the latter 10 portfolios in the new ministry. The move is seen as a ploy to keep the Sena in check and monitor its movements closely.
BJP President of the Maharashtra state unit Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray
Despite delivering one of its best performances in the last three elections and bagging 63 seats, the Sena is now forced to be an unconditional supporter to the BJP. Sources said though Sena members aren’t too happy with just 10 portfolios, they see it as a step to keep a close watch on political happenings. In the last state government, there were 48 ministers from Sena. To rub salt on the injury, the BJP will give smaller portfolios to the Sena, namely dairy, women and child welfare, among others. Ravindra Waikar, Sunil Prabhu, Neelam Gorhe and Eknath Shinde are likely to head these ministries. A senior Sena leader, who didn’t wish to be named, said, “The Sena’s decision will be in the best interest of the state. It’ll support a stable government in Maharashtra.” A BJP leader said, on condition of anonymity, “The Sena will not be able to dictate terms to us anymore. It’ll have to be content with whatever it gets from the BJP.”
Planning for the future
The BJP is also gearing up to attack the Sena in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and ensure that it emerges supreme in the future corporation elections. According to sources, senior leaders have told the higher-ups in BJP that if the party contests solo in those elections, it will get more than 90 seats. Right now, the Sena has 75 seats in the 227-member BMC.
In the last BMC elections, the BJP fought for 60 seats but today has 31 corporators in the municipal body. “We have 15 MLAs who won in the assembly polls, and every MLA seat consists of six corporation seats. So automatically the figure goes up to 90 seats. If we work hard for the next few years and tackle the issues properly we will surely cross the 100 mark even in BMC,” said a BJP leader on condition of anonymity.
Even political experts believe that the Sena has lost its bargaining power. Jose George, political department head of Mumbai University, claims that had the Sena offered support to the BJP before the Nationalist Congress Party, it would have been in a better position. “Uddhav Thackeray is not a very assertive person, so the BJP is trying to overpower him,” said George.
He, however, doesn’t believe that Sena will lose its relevance in the state, but states that it will be limited to a regional party. “Sena will be a smaller party in the larger political scenario. The demand for the formation of Vidarbha by BJP will give some relevance to the Sena, as it will be able to play the Marathi card and connect with the public,” George said.