Dharmendra Jore: Will Sena take the bull by the horns?

BJP chief Amit Shah has declared the party's resolve to get rid of crutches that the Sena provides in the state. Will the BJP go solo in the 2019 polls as well?

BJP president Amit Shah
BJP president Amit Shah

In political circles, the meeting between BJP president Amit Shah and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is being analysed in two ways.

One side says that Shah hasn't given much importance to the Sena by clubbing the meeting with Thackeray with smaller allies, and hence it didn't have any sense of exclusivity. The other side says that Shah, after suffering much humiliation at the hands of the Sena chief and his rank and file, took a step back to confer with Thackeray at his Mumbai residence to seek help in the presidential poll. This is taken as a sort of triumph for the Sena over the BJP, which has been on Thackeray's radar ever since the two parties broke ties ahead of the 2014 Assembly polls, and then joined hands to run the state together.

BJP gets ready
Perennially sulking because it has lost the upper hand in the saffron union, the Sena hasn't lost any opportunity to attack the BJP. In one of the meetings that Shah held during a three-day tour of Mumbai, some BJP leaders even asked Shah as to how they should deal with the Sena, which behaves more like the opposition than an ally. Shah had a ready reply: Don't think much about it. The Sena attacks us because we don't have enough numbers in the Assembly. They will stop criticising us the day we increase our strength beyond a point (read majority needed for forming a government).

Shah has specifically asked state leaders to make each Assembly segment winnable. In 2014, all four major parties had fought Assembly elections independently. Of the 288, the BJP has 123 in the existing house. The Sena has 63. The Congress and NCP together are below the 90-mark. In 2019, or in case we have mid-term polls, it will be the other three against the BJP. The Sena will not be taken along by the BJP for obvious reasons, but the Congress and NCP may well go together, depending on the situation that prevails then.

Solo Sena?
Before the Assembly polls, we will have general elections, which will elect 48 members to the Lok Sabha from Maharashtra. The BJP (23), Sena (18) and ally Swabhimani Paksh (1) were together then and swept the rivals away by leaving just six seats to the alliance of Congress (2) and NCP (4).

Considering the pride that it wears on its sleeves, will the Sena severe ties with the BJP in Lok Sabha polls as well? Or will the BJP create a situation in which the Sena quits the alliance? The Sena hasn't been happy in the Centre with just one ministry, that too an insignificant portfolio. It has threatened to call off the post-poll alliance in the state at the drop of a hat, so much so that former sainik, Narayan Rane's MLA son Nitish has written to the Guinness Book of Records to take note of the Sena's frequent declarations that do not see any prompt action.

Jokes apart, the Sena really needs to show some real guts if they decide to take the bull by the horns. And if Sena pulls out any time soon, a mid-term poll appears imminent. The BJP had survived its first month of a minority government in a strange situation, in which the NCP had extended it outside support. But in an advanced stage like this, the BJP might not be able to rely on support from any party such as Sharad Pawar's unit, notwithstanding a proximity that the NCP chief enjoys with PM Modi.

So, in any such situation, Shah's ultimatum to BJP's state unit that it must get working in all Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies without relying on the 'Modi wave', speaks a lot for itself. A proven 'chatur' poll manager, the BJP president seems to have realised that his party would be dealing with factors different from the dream year of 2014.

If he decides to be gutsy enough, Uddhav Thackeray may well continue to be a thorn in the flesh for the BJP.

Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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