The Cong-NCP alliance has compelled BJP to be accommodative of its ally, howsoever grudgingly
Despite utterances by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis about ideological commitment being the glue of the newly-sealed BJP-Shiv Sena electoral deal in the State — 25-23 sharing for Lok Sabha and 50-50 for the Assembly — but this is one of mutual sustenance and an expedient arrangement where Uddhav Thackeray has been able to put the stamp of Matoshri. And though for the BJP, this is an “all’s well that ends well” scenario, what with Maharashtra being a turnkey state for it in the Lok Sabha elections with 48 seats, it was a rocky road to a patch-up and one which taught party chief Amit Shah a lesson or two in eating humble pie once in a while, accommodating allies rather than pushing them away. In fact, the BJP, by virtue of being the larger party, will have a trying time, justifying the pared down seats to its cadres and candidates. The number game explains why the Sena is roaring like a tiger today. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP contested in 24 and won 23, while the Shiv Sena contested in 20 and won 18 seats. Going by this strike rate, the BJP ideally should have had more seats in its kitty but has almost ceded equal ground to its ally. Not only that, it is believed the BJP is withdrawing from a couple of seats in favour of the Sena, risking the displeasure and rebellion of some partymen. And while the BJP went alone in the Assembly elections in 2014, picking up a big majority of 122 against the Sena’s 63, it has still agreed to offer equal space to a waning ally. Politically, the BJP has run out of options, what with the Congress and NCP striking a seat-sharing agreement much before and old warhorse and NCP chief Sharad Pawar carving out a new relevance for himself in the Opposition front. The Sena clearly moved in to take advantage of BJP’s angst about the Maratha strongman’s tactics with the latter reportedly engaging in backroom manoeuvres too, nudging the Sena leadership to bid for chief ministership. Or so the grapevine has it. Pawar may even return to electoral politics himself, muddying up waters even more.
Besides, the Sena has kept the BJP on tenterhooks over the last four years, volubly criticising the Narendra Modi government on every front, from Rafale to the Ram temple in Ayodhya. Even on the latest round of Pulwama attacks, the Sena mouthpiece Saamna criticised the BJP, saying that by appealing to people to vote for it so that it could avenge the terrorist act was akin to taking political mileage out of the death of soldiers. And just a few days ago Sena representatives joined TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu in protesting against the Modi government, the strongest visual threat that it could upset the cart if the BJP rolled it over the edge. It even heaved on the Fadnavis government to ensure 16 per cent quota for the Maratha community. It is through such sharp political manoeuvres and provocations that the Sena shored up its own value and caused insecurities in the central BJP leadership, which will need as many allies as it can to buoy it up for a second term. Back in 2014, Sena joined the alliance to prevent a split as the BJP was wooing its MLAs. This subsuming of the Sena’s identity was the real reason for the bitterness between the two parties. Now clearly the tables have turned and Sena has the upper hand.
Writer & Courtesy: Pioneer