PM Narendra Modi and BJP have faced a lot of backlash ever since announcing demonetisation last year and rolling out GST in July 2017. While most of the criticism have come from opposition, there is one part of ruling NDA – the Shiv Sena – which keeps on firing salvos on BJP. Be it demonetisation, GST, unemployment or GDP decline, Shiv Sena leaders have taken their big brother to task every time they got a chance. The bitterness has now grown so much that Sena, still an NDA ally, has officially called BJP its “principal enemy”.
Once a trenchant critic of Congress, Sena is now up to saying that people have started listening to its leader Rahul Gandhi. Without mincing words, the Sena spokesperson recently accepted that they are in the Maharashtra government “just for sake of it” – a clear hint that future of ruling BJP-Sena alliance in Maharashtra is in doldrums.
Ego clash for supremacy?
Fight between the two parties is more about political supremacy. There was a dramatic increase in BJP’s popularity in Maharashtra after Modi’s 2014 General Elections victory. Before that, Sena was leader of their alliance in the state and had more seats. Sena’s ego also took an apparent hit when their representative in Union Cabinet – Anant Geete wasn’t given a meaty portfolio. Then came another jolt – Suresh Prabhu, who ditched Shiv Sena, was inducted in Narendra Modi cabinet as Railway Minister. Their demand of deputy CM post in Maharashtra was also not entertained.
Sena’s alliance with BJP was always troubled. The parties parted ways before 2014 assembly polls as they couldn’t reach a consensus on alliance. However, the two parties once again came together as BJP lacked a majority after the polls and Shiv Sena found to it wise to avoid opposition benches. BJP had to accept the support and offered Shiv Sena MLAs minor portfolios in Maharashtra Cabinet.
It remains a fact that two parties have a similar vote bank and follow similar ideology. But now, it seems that what binded them together has become the point of tension. The dramatic rise in popularity of CM Devendra Fadnavis and BJP in the state has left Sena worried about electoral prospects in the state. Also, the parties are staring at 2019 – the year which will see Maharashtra going to both Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.
It’s clear that the two parties are together for their mutual interests. But the strained ties are doing no good to the people of the state.
Being a part of ruling alliance, Sena, the second largest party in the state, can criticise but can’t protest against state government’s decisions. It’s high time that either Sena or BJP call off their ties. For BJP, they may not lack majority as it may secure the support of NCP. The Sena, on the other hand, will be able to play on front foot and chalk out a strategy to contest 2019 polls. Else, the two parties should sit together, work out the differences, and start governing the way they should.