Dharmendra Jore: Why is the Shiv Sena's regional spirit on the rise

The Sena feels dwarfed by the BJP but understands that it (BJP) is not very confident of repeating the 2014 show in Mumbai

Why does the Shiv Sena believe that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s ‘Shat Pratishat BJP’ motto is very difficult to achieve in future? The Uddhav Thackeray-led ally of the BJP has refused to give Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who completes two years in office this week, any credit for its good performance in the Assembly polls in some states. The Sena has rejected the BJP’s claim that Modi’s style of governance has yielded for the country. The Sena has several reasons to chide the BJP through its mouthpiece Saamna that has been hitting hard at the partner ever since the poll results were out.

Obviously, the Sena has Maharashtra, particularly Mumbai on its mind when it behaves more like an opposition rather than a ruling partner. A slugfest between the two partners has always hogged limelight in media. Occasional allegations that official opposition parties made against the BJP ministers have punctuated the Sena versus BJP show of rivalry, which has been a permanent feature of Maharashtra politics in the past two years.

The Sena’s grouse is that it had to concede a Numero Uno position in the state to the BJP which had been its number two before emerging the winner. It hurts the Sena even more when regional parties are dictating terms to national parties – a phenomenon that we saw in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam and other states that went to polls recently. The Sena feels dwarfed and it has vowed to regain its past glory as civic polls in Mumbai, Thane and Pune (some other cities as well) are fast approaching. If next year’s civic polls bring any electoral success, the Sena will set its sights on the 2019 Assembly polls.

It is not that the BJP is doing nothing to beat the Sena’s tactical play. The BJP’s efforts to expose corruption in the BMC are one of counter ploys. It has been trying to get good leaders from other parties to its fold ahead of the Mumbai polls. It has announced that Mumbai’s makeover would be completed before the 2019 Assembly polls. The BJP has started projecting itself as an alternative to the Sena in the country’s richest civic body.

But the Sena clearly understands that the BJP is not very confident of repeating the 2014 show in Mumbai, which elected more MLAs for the BJP than any other party. The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s losing steam has added to the Sena’s strength, while any anti-BJP effort that the Congress and AIMIM would put to use would benefit the Sena even more. Moreover, the BJP doesn’t have a local face that will match Uddhav. It will again be left to Chief Minister (CM) Devendra Fadnavis to play that very crucial role because he does not have an Amit Shah in Mumbai and state BJP cadre to perform wonders. It will be interesting to see if Fadnavis tries to repeat the Dombivli model in Mumbai if the two parties decide to go separate ways.

People in the know don’t see investigations in corruption in the BMC helping the BJP much though it is fighting the Sena over the issue using state government powers and through its vocal MP Kirit Somaiya, who has dragged senior Sena leaders into the scandal. But people wonder whether high-profile probes, conducted by the BMC administration and the city police will be taken to their logical end. Will the BJP take the risk of exposing leaders of all parties, including its own representatives who are allegedly involved in several scams? Seniors in the BJP skip these questions, leaving us to understand that this is nothing but a pressure tactic to control the Sena and other parties in the fray. The fact remains that, unlike state-level leaders accused of corruption, no Mumbai corporator and BMC office-bearer has been arrested in the ongoing cases. No matter what the Congress or other opposition parties are up to in the run-up to the civic polls, it is certain that the city will witness another round of an interesting battle between a regional force Shiv Sena and a nationalistic BJP. This is bound to happen even when they go together in the polls.

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

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