Just like Amit Shah refused to give in to the Sena ahead of the state polls two years ago, CM Devendra Fadnavis pushes regional ally to the brink in the clearest sign yet that the two parties will fight the BMC polls on their own
A hectic day of haggling by the Shiv Sena yesterday ended with just two more junior ministers for the party in the state Cabinet to be expanded today. A minor victory for the party, however, is the fact that it will have one of its ministers of state in the home department, while the executive powers of its minister of state, who will assist senior BJP ministers, will be enhanced. State BJP president Raosaheb Danve announced this late Thursday night.
All of yesterday, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis steadfastly refused to concede to the Sena’s demand for a Cabinet rank minister as well. Currently, the Sena has 10 ministers in Fadnavis’s team, of which five are of Cabinet rank and the remaining are junior ministers.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis sent the messengers of Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray home when they asked for more than what was agreed. File pic
As per the agreement signed between the two, when the Sena had joined the BJP’s minority government in December 2014, the Sena was to get only two more junior ministers whenever the strength of the team of ministers was increased. Despite that, the Sena tried to wangle more and the BJP, which completely ignored its ally in the Union Cabinet expansion earlier this week, sent Uddhav Thackeray's messengers home disappointed.
Sources said Fadnavis and Thackeray had even met over dinner at a common friend’s home in Chembur on Wednesday evening. But, this dinner diplomacy, too, did not work in the Sena’s favour.
A senior Sena MP told mid-day that his party tried all possible pressure tactics to make the BJP yield more ministerial berths. “We made a deliberate effort to get something more at the behest of some people close to Uddhavji. But, we are getting two ministers of state,” he said.
A chastised Sena finalised two names late in the evening. Gulabrao Patil (north Maharashtra), who is, however, facing some court cases. The Sena sought legal opinion on the fiery Patil before finalising his name. A leader from Marathwada, Arjun Khotkar, who is equally fiery, will also take oath.
The BJP, which has 20 ministers, wanted more of its own ministers and also to accommodate some smaller allies, barring the RPI-A, which was given a berth in the Union Cabinet earlier this week. The BJP is set to induct six of its own legislators and two from its allies, the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna and Rashtriya Samaj Paksh.
The day's parleys were reminiscent of the back-and-forth between the two parties ahead of the 2014 assembly elections, when BJP President Amit Shah, who was in charge of the seat-sharing arrangement, refused to cede an inch to the Sena.
With Shah refusing to accept the Sena’s final and reasonable offer, the regional party was left with no option but to fight it alone. The alienation continued even during government formation, with the BJP playing the waiting game before accepting the Sena’s offer of support.
Allotting fewer berths than expected to the Sena back then, the BJP had said the latter would be accommodated in the Union cabinet expansion. But the Sena did not feature in Tuesday’s central cabinet expansion either.
With the BMC polls just a few months away, this again seems like a well-thought-out plan to push the Sena to the brink and force it to fight the civic polls alone. Significantly, on Wednesday, Fadnavis has told Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar that his target should be winning at least 114 out of the 227 wards, which will help the party take sole control of the prestigious Mumbai civic body for the first time ever.
Who will make the cut
Allies (pre-poll alliance): Sadabhau Khot (Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna), Mahadev Jankar (Rashtriya Samaj Paksh)
BJP: Sambhaji Nilangekar, Jaikumar Rawal, Subhash Deshmukh, Pandurang Phundkar, Ravindra Chavan, Madan Yeravar
Shiv Sena: Gulabrao Patil and Arjun Khotkar