As Fadnavis resigns to head a caretaker Govt, the Sena cannot see the BJP bombarding its space of Marathi championship
This has been a classic case of constitutional propriety being overridden by political impropriety. Maharashtra is staring at an unprecedented political crisis, where two pre-poll alliances have sought a mandate and one of them, the BJP-Shiv Sena combine, even has the people’s faith with a good enough majority but cannot agree on terms of governance. BJP Chief Minister-elect Devendra Fadnavis resigned his post, claiming failure to work out a power-sharing agreement and expressing “hurt” at Sena’s barbs and “lies” over the last few days. While many thought that the Sena’s demand for a rotational chief ministership was an attempt to drive a hard bargain, given the BJP’s depleted singular strength of 105 in a House of 288 compared to 2014 when it still had a minority government with 122 seats, nobody had bargained for a complete breakdown. Even Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said he would snap ties if called a “liar” again. Hurt pride for intransigent, power-hungry parties, mockery of a people’s verdict. So the State is looking at a politically convenient coalition or President’s Rule. The BJP is just as arrogantly silent in the face of Sena’s insistence on sharing the top post. Although it has emerged on its own with some props of its ally over the years, it is either plain dissatisfied or wondering if power-sharing would diminish the unifying leadership of Devendra Fadnavis, a man who has the blessings of its ideological anchor RSS and a proven administrator. Despite being a non-Maratha, he is the one who pushed quotas for Marathas, soothed Dalit anger and despite problems, had got a working relationship going with the Sena. But the BJP needed the Sena for numbers, its Operation Kamal or breaking parties too discredited now and too fratricidal if tried on its 30-year-ally. It is flummoxed this time because the Sena isn’t blinking. If it gives in to sharing chief ministership with a greenhorn like Sena scion Aditya Thackeray, it would dilute its personality plank as a winning strategy; hence its dilemma. As far as the Sena is concerned, this is the best time to pick up the pieces of its personality cult, shattered ever since the death of its founder Balasaheb Thackeray. Grandson Aditya is now an elected member of the House and the party feels that over the years of being subsumed to the BJP, he is the face around which the Marathi manoos and pride can coalesce and arm Sainiks as the best defenders of their State. This is in the tradition of a new Marathi resurgence and reclaiming the legacy of Chhatrapati Shivaji, one that, much to its discomfort, has also been appropriated by Fadnavis smartly by way of renaming and building statues. All leaders in Maharashtra harp on federalism and not kowtowing before the Centre as a sales pitch and a young Aditya could represent that fiery hope for the Sena. This is the reason why despite a paralysis of governance, Uddhav has been touring villages hit by unseasonal rains and drought as an honest and concerned representative of the people. Meanwhile, the cosmopolitan Aditya is seen as part of Sena’s rebranding exercise to generate traction among the youth, present a more progressive face and bury its reprehensible past involving Valentine’s Day diktats or digging cricket pitches. But being one of the BJP’s first allies, the Sena cannot synchronise with new partners, even if it goes around with a shopping bag. In fact, right now it appears as a spoiler in its best time so far.
Truth be told, the BJP-Sena marriage has survived a rocky 30 years with counselling services. Yet despite knowing each other too well and with the greatest convergence of ideologies, they have been more frenemies than allies. In 2009, the Shiv Sena had contested 160 seats against the BJP’s 119 in the Assembly. This has reversed in 2019 with the BJP gaining clout and developing a matrix of its own, particularly around the aura of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, somebody whom Balasaheb himself had defended post the Gujarat riots. The only way Shiv Sena could rescue its territorial importance was by taking a moral high ground and embarrassing the BJP from within. It has been strident in its campaign on building the Ram temple at Ayodhya. It has been harsher than the Opposition in criticising Fadnavis, the latest being on his failure to save the Aarey forests, and the Central Government too. And it keeps on reminding the BJP that it became its first ally when nobody was keen to touch it. Both have been fighting over policies since. But the hard facts are that both need each other to remain in power. The Sena has used the BJP in the initial years to bubble up the Hindutva pride and wrest a State that had been seen as a sure bet of the Congress. The BJP still needs it to break through and appear reliably magnanimous. Both need each other to control the cash-rich Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). Besides, can they let down the people of a State?
Saturday, 09 November 2019 | Pioneer
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