The talk of the Thackeray cousins coming together after the polls is unlikely to cut much ice, as the move has come quite late. And, most importantly, Uddhav does not appear to be too keen on a reunion. On the contrary, he is confident that his party will get a majority and has reiterated the unity of voters devoted to the cause of the Marathis and the ideology of Hindutva, simultaneously.
Uddhav and Raj differ on many issues, from the way the BMC is to be ruled to the manner in which one can play the role of an effective opposition party in state politics. But, for now, they share a common agenda as well as the target for the state assembly elections —Narendra Modi. Invoking pro-Marathi sentiments, both have made determined efforts to corner alleged attempts by Gujarat to take over reins of Maharashtra. In their opinion, rhetoric against PM Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah’s Gujarati roots can rake in maximum votes.
Significantly, the disenchantment among voters over the 15-year-long rule of Congress and NCP, along with the anti-incumbency factor, has been replaced with BJP-bashing. Both parties contend that, in any case, the Congress-NCP were going to face the music over their misrule. Uddhav has openly said so.
In other words, it is clear that for both the Thackerays, the onslaught of BJP in general, and that by PM Modi and Amit Shah in particular, is more serious. If the BJP gets a majority to form the government on its own, its next target would be the cash-rich civic body of Mumbai. And Shiv Sena, in any case, wouldn’t want to lose control over it for fear of further weakening its base in Mumbai. Given that the reins of trade and businesses are concentrated with the Gujarati community, Shiv Sena is making all-out efforts to stall BJP efforts to win full majority.
MNS, on the other hand, is struggling for political survival after its miserable performance in the Lok Sabha elections. For Raj Thackeray too, the rise of the BJP to numero uno would mean a lesser role in future politics. Today, most surprisingly, he is, for the first time, not making any attempts to break Shiv Sena’s vote bank, as he has done earlier. Ever since he formed the MNS, Raj has been trying to wean away disgruntled Shiv Sainiks and welcome them into his party’s fold. But now, he has reserved scathing words for the BJP, followed by Congress-NCP.
PM Modi and Amit Shah have made a concerted bid to win maximum seats to establish their control on state affairs. For both of them, the state elections are so important that if the results come otherwise, Modi-Shah baiters will spare no opportunity to corner them. BJP’s defeat would mean the defeat of Modi and Shah, as senior leaders including L K Advani have stayed away from the alliance’s break-up.
This is further corroborated with Modi’s resolve to address as many rallies as possible. He is probably the only PM who has addressed 24-25 election rallies in one state. No other person in such a position would have spent so much time and energy for campaigning in one state. Under normal circumstances, one would have left it to state leaders and the central party unit to handle the matters. But, the stakes are high here.
On the other hand, if national-level parties like the BJP and the Congress win more seats than regional players, it will change the state’s political scenario. Sensing the trouble ahead, prominent leaders of the regional parties the two Senas and NCP have been asking publicly whether Modi was going to take over as the state CM. Such rhetoric comes against the backdrop of anxiety and an attempt to neutralise the impact of the concerned leader.
Another reason behind Modi’s full-throttle effort is that he wants the maximum number of Rajya Sabha members from the state. Currently, the Congress enjoys majority in the Upper House, which for now, at least, is a headache for the BJP, as it has to rely on other parties such as AIADMK and other regional players. To have its own majority, the only way before the BJP is to have as many MLAs in as many states as possible. But, in this endeavour, the party is losing its old friends such as Kuldeep Bishnoi-led Haryana Janhit Congress and Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena. The party has played a huge gamble and how it pays off shall only be visible after October 19.
The writer is Political Editor of mid-day