Shiv Sena uses Ahmednagar workers' murder to corner BJP

Apr 17, 2018, 08:15 IST | Dharmendra Jore

Shiv Sena has found two solid reasons – the murder of its two leaders in Ahmednagar, and a chemical refinery project in Konkan – to push the BJP into a corner

Uddhav Thackeray
Uddhav Thackeray

Amid information coming in on Monday, that Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has refused to meet BJP minister Sudhir Mungantiwar to discuss alliance-related issues, political circles were busy talking as to how the party has started ignoring the ruling partner's softened treatment ahead of the crucial general elections, in which the BJP needs to win maximum numbers for the NDA from Maharashtra.

Sena has found two solid reasons – the murder of its two leaders in Ahmednagar, and a chemical refinery project in Konkan – to push the BJP into a corner. Mungantiwar's office clarified that the minister had sought Thackeray's time to discuss things other than the alliance. But there were not many takers, because the minister has been in talks with Sena for long and is expected to carry the mission forward, even as Sena's second line leader, minister Subhash Desai and MP Sanjay Raut, have rejected the BJP's offer for a pre-poll alliance.

Sources in the Sena said the president has decided to keep the BJP on hold as long as he doesn't see it surrendering, which in a way, will be seeking revenge for the BJP's acts ahead of the 2014 Assembly polls. Relations between the parties strained further after the double murder of Sena workers - Sanjay Kotkar, Vasant Thube - in Ahmednagar. The Sena has asked for expulsion of a BJP legislator, Shivaji Kardile, whose son-in-law an NCP legislator, has been charged with the murder. Kardile and his supporters have been arrested for ransacking the police headquarters.

Laying siege to CM's residence
The murder-related matter escalated on Sunday when Thackeray asked all his ministers and sainiks from Ahmednagar to lay siege to the CM's official residence to demand withdrawal of cases against the sainiks. Sena workers will go for voluntary arrest if their demand is not met. mid-day reported last Wednesday that this issue would be a flash point between the ruling partners.

Another strong issue that Sena is using against the BJP is a proposed chemical refinery at Nanar in Konkan. Thackeray is upset, because despite his opposition, the Centre has signed a MoU with a Saudi investor for the project that is being opposed for environmental reasons, not only by the Sena, but by other parties except the BJP. Various party leaders are planning to travel to Nanar, which falls in the Sena's political stronghold. A big fight to avail of credit to get the project scrapped is on the anvil.

Why alliance
If the NDA were to retain power in 2019, the BJP and Sena together must retain maximum seats in Maharashtra, the second largest state after Uttar Pradesh in terms of number of Lok Sabha seats. The two parties together have 41 MPs (BJP 23, Sena 18). In 2014's Modi wave, the Sena had contested 20 seats and won 18, while BJP contested 24 and won 23. One went to Swabhimani Shetkari Paksha (the then NDA partner), the Congress won 2 and the NCP 4.

But with the Congress and NCP all set to have a pre-poll arrangement, the BJP and Sena fighting separately would mean a great loss to the NDA. So the arithmetic demands that the saffron alliance continues, at least for the Lok Sabha polls, in which a seat-sharing formula is already in place. And considering this, Thackeray seems to be stretching things too far for the BJP. He has announced twice from a party platform that there will be no alliance with the BJP in future, neither for Lok Sabha nor Vidhan Sabha.

Five months after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the Sena and BJP parted ways in the Assembly polls in which the later emerged as the single largest party (122) and the Sena won 63. They bickered before the Sena joined the BJP government in December 2014. The two have been fighting over several issues despite being together in the government ever since. CM Fadnavis said recently that sharing seats for the Assembly should not be a great concern because his party was willing to take an accommodative approach.

'Can't force alliance'
"One can't force a pact on the other. But if they (Sena) wish to hand power to the Congress and NCP, then they should fight elections independently. The alliance is not a compulsion for BJP," he said, adding that the BJP too was prepared to go solo. He said the alliance will depend largely on the logic and figures. "As of now, no leaders from either side are discussing the alliance," he said.

23
No of MPs the BJP has in the Lok Sabha

18
No of MPs the Shiv Sena has in the Lok Sabha

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