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BJP-Sena alliance may go bust due to MNS

Indian politics is known for its quirky turns and unpredictability. A few months back, when the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) took political centre stage in Delhi, it became a topic of discussion among all sections of society

Indian politics is known for its quirky turns and unpredictability. A few months back, when the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) took political centre stage in Delhi, it became a topic of discussion among all sections of society. Established political parties huddled up to ponder over their strategies to face the challenge. The state was also eagerly waiting for AAP’s next moves in Mumbai and elsewhere. It was presumed that the AAP would, apart from giving a run to the likes of Congress-NCP or Shiv Sena-BJP in Maharashtra, also seriously damage the Raj Thackeray-led MNS.

AAP was all set to become a viable alternative to the weakest ever opposition in state politics. But, much water has flown after its decision to quit Delhi government, coupled with a few other incidents involving its leaders.

The MNS, which was expected to suffer with AAP’s emergence, has once again assumed political centre stage, thanks to some clever moves by leaders of established political parties. Just one meeting between ex-BJP chief Nitin Gadkari and Raj Thackeray resulted in MNS backing Narendra Modi for the post of prime minister.

The state’s political scene has been muddled further after this meeting, because the BJP seems ready to do anything to keep the MNS in good humour. The party has decided to ignore the tantrums of Shiv Sena and its chief Uddhav Thackeray. It will be interesting to watch whether the BJP decides to leave the Pune Lok Sabha seat for MNS as a friendly gesture. Of the seven seats that MNS has decided to contest as of now, Pune is the only seat in BJP’s quota — the rest are with Shiv Sena.

The ongoing feud in the Thackeray family is set to worsen further with Raj’s move to befriend the BJP and oppose the Shiv Sena. MNS’ decision to field its candidates from seven Lok Sabha constituencies will badly affect Shiv Sena candidates’ fortunes. The six seats – Mumbai south, Mumbai south central, Mumbai north west, Kalyan, Nashik and Shirur are with the Shiv Sena as per the seat sharing formula. It seems Raj wants to teach the Sena, particularly Uddhav Thackeray, a lesson, as it has strongly objected to letting MNS join the NDA. A large number of Shiv Sainiks will also be in a quandary, as they have always favoured joining hands with MNS.

Shiv Sena may find itself in trouble, as it did not pay heed to Gadkari’s clarification; he said the purpose of the meeting was “in the interest of the NDA”. MNS has been the biggest worry for the BJP and it was amply proved in the 2009 general elections to Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha. The presence of MNS candidates immensely benefited the Congress and NCP, robbing the vote bank of the BJP.

But, Shiv Sena’s refusal to the MNS come what may, might affect the party’s future with the BJP. A few nasty comments appeared in the party mouthpiece Saamna against Gadkari, for his attempts to be cosy with the MNS; this has further strained relations between the two alliance partners. The BJP decided to fight back in unison. First, senior leader Gopinath Munde, who was himself deeply upset with the Gadkari-Raj rendezvous and skipped a crucial party meet in anger, said the comments were uncalled for. He also admitted to meeting Raj in Pune recently.

Second, the BJP approached Raj Thackeray to muster his party’s support for the upcoming biennial elections to the state council. BJP decided to field two candidates, Vinod Tawde being one of them. Tawde maintains the capacity to wrest extra votes needed for the council polls. He and city BJP chief Ashish Shelar met Raj on Friday with a request for MNS backing during the council polls. If MNS supports the BJP, one of the two Shiv Sena candidates is set to lose the council election. If this happens, it will further widen the rift between the BJP and the Sena, taking them to the verge of parting ways.

In short, Shiv Sena has a big challenge in store for it. It will be interesting to watch how Uddhav plays his cards.

The writer is Political Editor of mid-day

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