Is Shiv Sena BJP’s biggest political enemy? Fight between friend-turned-foe unlikely to end soon
Mumbai, June 4: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena share a lot in common, especially their core ideology of practicing "Hindu nationalism" to woo the majority in the country. Thus a strong "friendship" between the two parties is only natural.
Of late, the equation between the two parties, known to champion the cause of the Hindus, has turned 'sour', as the Shiv Sena has felt cheated by the "big brother" BJP. While the Shiv Sena has its presence in Maharashtra only and is witnessing a steady decline in its fortune post the demise of its founder and supremo Bal Thackeray in 2012, the BJP is the most powerful political party in the country now with its government in 21 states and at the Centre.
The BJP and the Shiv Sena run a coalition government in Maharashtra where the latter has been almost relegated to the background with no say in important government decisions. This has irked the Shiv Sena a lot, but it can't do much because of its strength in the state legislative Assembly which is 63 MLAs compared to 122 MLAs of the BJP.
As a mark of protest, the Shiv Sena for a while has been regularly criticising the BJP (both nationally and locally in Maharashtra) over myriad issues. Interestingly, even after its open protest on numerous occasions, the Shiv Sena has still not left the coalition government in Maharashtra.
The latest political salvo from the Shiv Sena against the BJP is that the former is the latter's biggest "political enemy". The comment has come just a few days after the Shiv Sena lost the by-poll against the BJP in the Palghar Lok Sabha constituency.
In fact, this is for the first time when the Shiv Sena had fielded a candidate against the BJP. The decision to contest the election against its "partner" was an attempt by the Shiv Sena to directly confront the BJP. The Shiv Sena was hoping to win the poll to regain its lost glory in the coalition government. Unfortunately, it did not happen and the BJP once again succeeded in taming its alliance partner.
On Sunday, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut described his party as the BJP's biggest "political enemy". The country "does not" want the duo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, but could "accept" the Congress or JD(S) leader HD Deve Gowda, he said.
"The Shiv Sena is the biggest political enemy (rajkiya shatroo) of the BJP. The Shiv Sena's radical Hinduism would prove problematic for the BJP," he said in an opinion piece written under his "rokh-thokh" (straight forward) column published in party mouthpiece, Saamana. Raut is the editor of the Marathi daily.
Taking potshots at the BJP, Raut said the BJP paid tributes to its late MP Chintaman Wanaga by defeating his son, the Shiv Sena candidate, in Palghar. The bypoll was necessitated by the death of Chintaman Wanaga.
Since the Shiv Sena is the main political opponent of the BJP, the latter's plan is to weaken the Uddhav Thackeray-led party while staying in power with it, he alleged.
"Hence, the BJP's plan is to stay with the Shiv Sena in power and try to weaken it by using power and money. The BJP used its resources to ensure Shiv Sena's defeat in the Palghar Lok Sabha bypoll (held last month)," Raut said.
The Shiv Sena leader claimed "trickery" of Eelctronic Voting Machines (EVMs) led to the BJP's victory in Palghar and said it was nothing short of a "scandal".
"On the day of voting (May 28), complaints of the EVMs malfunctioning were reported from at least 100 locations. The Election Commission rejected the Shiv Sena's request for extending voting hours, but a similar demand of BJP candidate Rajendra Gavit (who won the seat) was accepted," he alleged.
He claimed that every polling station, where extension for voting was given, reported an "average 100 extra votes to the BJP nominee and cumulatively BJP's votes increased by some thousands. But some 60,000 voters could not vote".
"After the voting, the district collector declared 46 per cent turnout, but the figure went up to 56 per cent the next day (when final figure was announced). It means 82,000 votes increased overnight", he said.
Raut claimed that the BJP has appointed people with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh links to key constitutional posts and controlled the election procedure. He also referred to the setback suffered by the BJP in the just held Lok Sabha and Assembly by-polls in some states.
"The BJP managed to win the Palghar Lok Sabha by-poll but it lost many other Lok Sabha and Assembly by-polls. This shows winds of change are blowing in several parts of the country," he said.
"The by-poll results indicate beginning of the BJP's downfall," said the Rajya Sabha MP. He charged that "the country is in such a state of mind that it can accept the Congress or Deve Gowda, but does not want the Modi- Shah duo".
However, just a day after its victory in the Palghar by-poll, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis last week underscored the importance of mutual efforts to sustain the straining BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in the state.
"We are not against the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance and neither do we believe that our alliance will break, but effort has to be from both ways. We are ready for talks with the Shiv Sena," Fadnavis said.
Looking at the sharp attacks against the BJP, it does not look the Shiv Sena has accepted its "defeat" at the hands of its friend-turned-foe. The battle of ego between the Shiv Sena and the BJP is likely to turn uglier in the coming days in the wake of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.