Will Shiv Sena let Hindutva distance it from Congress?
Even as the khichdi government continues to bother BJP, the question is whether the arithmetic will help the Shiv Sena sail through without ideological hiccups
All is well at the top for the BJP cruise, but losing Maharashtra will continue to upset the ruling party. BJP couldn't keep the most important state when Shiv Sena outperformed the election ally in arithmetic and emerged hero for fragmented anti-BJP parties giving them hope that if it isn't possible for them to camp together in one tent before elections, they can at least cobble up numbers to keep the BJP away from power after results.
But if the parties think that the Mumbai-like arithmetic should sail them through without any hiccups, then, they should keep watching the Maharashtra experiment that hasn't stopped its reaction process. The chemistry in a classroom lab, which is buzzing with students sharing different backgrounds, doesn't seem to be giving the three-element equation a formula that can ensure lasting stability. This has given BJP a ray of hope that the Sena-led government may go sooner or later and it has started working on a plan very ferociously. Maharashtra's khichdi sarkar has parties that don't share much with each other on ideological front. And yet they came together because they wanted power anyhow. Congress entered the pact on a condition that the Sena gives up a saffron garb. A negotiator in this, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) isn't very aggressive in pursuing the idea of being Congress-like ideological staunch. The Sena, however, has softened the Hindutva for the sake of keeping the Congress attached with the formation in the state. Will it be able to do that forever?
The very ideological flip-flop of Sena is now being used by the BJP to widen the gap between the CM's party and the grand old national party. The Sena's view on the contentious CAB, the right-wing Sanatan Sanstha and Rahul Gandhi's remark on Veer Savarkar have come handy for the BJP to question Sena's core thought of Hindutva which gets it votes. Sena supported CAB in Lok Sabha and abstained in Rajya Sabha when the Bill came up for voting because of the rumbling in the Congress. But the job was done well as the BJP won vote in both the houses. The President ratified the law, and now Sena would again be put on the gallows over the law's implementation in the state. The Congress wants Sena to follow its path. Uddhav hasn't stated his position yet, but he would definitely be under pressure from the Congress to not go ahead with the particular law's enforcement in Maharashtra. Will Sena go against its own pronouncements against illegal migrants and Hindutva agenda to be able to run a coalition government? CAB is expected to give BJP a ride into the Hindu vote bank. Knowing this, the Sena voted in favour of the law and then gave an unconvincing excuse that it needed clarity on the Bill before it was tabled in the Rajya Sabha, which shows that the party wasn't in double mind, but played only to the wishes of the Congress that slammed the CAB proponents in very strong words. It is anybody's guess that any further direct support to the BJP could have broken Sena's ties with the Congress. The same threat looms large ahead of implementation of the law.
Veer Savarkar is a revered figure for the Sena, which had taken a firm stand on the Hindutva proponent in the past. When Congress leader Rahul Gandhi made a remark over Savarkar's controversial pleas to seek pardon from the British in exchange of apology, the BJP launched a frontal attack on Gandhi in the Parliament and on the streets. The BJP expected Sena to react in the way the party founder Bal Thackeray had reacted when then Congress minister Manishankar Aiyer had removed a plaque containing Savarkar's quotes from Cellular Jail in Andaman where the freedom fighter was sent for serving a double life sentence. Late Thackeray had led 'Jode Mara' (hit with shoes) agitation against Aiyer and he himself had gone to Shivaji Park to slap Aiyer's effigy with his trademark white chappals. He had lashed out at state Congress and NCP leaders for keeping quiet on the controversy. His son Uddhav had said early this year that he too would have beaten Aiyer with slippers. He had said this in reference to Aiyer's remark of Savarkar's invention of word Hindutva that he said was a sole reason for a two-nation theory.
Uddhav hadn't reacted to Rahul's remark till this piece went to print, but party MP Sanjay Raut had said that Gandhi needed to be told by Maharashtra Congress leader about Savarkar's contribution to India's freedom struggle. "We respect Gandhi and Nehru, so, you should respect Savarkar. The message is clear for those who understand it," Raut had tweeted. But that didn't suffice for the Savarkar lovers, including BJP. They called it a dirty deal for remaining in power. Congress is a major gainer in the deal when we look at the portfolios it has been given. It is the party that would push Sena to the wall to get things of its choice done in days to come. The NCP would be happy as long as the government runs and continues to make efforts to stabilise the set-up through Sharad Pawar's bridging abilities. Now it's up to Uddhav to hold the insecure fort, which would be under attack from within and outside it. The battle has just begun.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore Send your feedback to email@example.com
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