So, Shivsena and BJP would be fighting BMC elections separately. This is a classic case of typical Indian politics from the days of invasion by Alexander.
Despite it got reduced to be a minority partner in the state government, Shivsena still treats BJP as a minority partner. On the other hand, buoyed by its performance in the last elections (both general and state), BJP was demanding half seats to contest.
While announcing the separation, Uddhav claimed that BJP backstabbed him. Of course, it is just nothing but a pre-election campaign rant. When Shivsena refused to offer any seats more than 119 in the state elections, while BJP won more seats in general elections, it only expressed the urge to leash the BJP from further progress in the state. Insulted by Shivsena, BJP emerged victorious in the state elections by winning and reduced Shivsena to being a minor partner in the government. Had Uddhav consulted someone with brains, he could have restricted BJP contesting 50% of seats and in that case, BJP could never have won 122 seats on its own. Sena might have increased its own score and the alliance would not have turned topsy-turvy.
Come 2017, things have not changed much. In BMC elections, again BJP staked claim to fight in 50% of seats to which Sena objects. The man who formulates the strategy for Shivsena (at least he is the one who expresses all decisions and opinions) Sanjay Raut declared allocating 60 seats to BJP is more than sufficient. This, is in a time, when BJP has one more MLA from Mumbai region!
Sena had failed the people of state time and again so much so that despite being most loved party, it could never come to power in the state in its long life time of over five decades. If Sena takes credit for the Maharashtra formation, one is left wondered why Shivsena didn’t come to power immediately in the nascent state. Perhaps, Sena didn’t have a vision to represent the people of the state.
Shivsena grew by alienating all communities like Gujaratis, Tamils, Punjabis and finally Bhaiyyas! On the other hand, BJP grew by including all those alienated by Shivsena along with Maharashtrians.
It is true that Bal Thackeray never was serious in politics or leading the state from the front was an established fact. From DMK that was older than Shivsena to TRS the party fought for and got Telangana, each and every regional outfit could rule the state on its own, a feat that could never be achieved by Shivsena. Sena ruled Maharashtra for one term with the support of BJP. Even their rule of BMC is supported by BJP.
Ever since Narendra Modi came to power in Delhi, Saamna, the mouthpiece of Shivsena and its editor Sanjay Raut criticised the centre perhaps more than any other regional outfit that was part of opposition. All the while, Sena remained a partner at the centre. Still, Shivsena opposes BJP and unilaterally declared end of alliance. But, Sena didn’t took back its support to the governments of BJP at centre or in the state.
The more shrill the voice of Sanjay Raut and Uddhav Thackeray criticising BJP could be heard, the more one starts thinking how this fight may be a fought with pillows. Both sides cry, shout and issue challenges, call names, but at the end – like a good husband and wife, live together.
If one remember the days leading to general election in 2014, there were strong rumours about AIADMK entering into an alliance with BJP. Given the news circulating about the strong friendship between Modi and Jaya, it was a bit surprising the alliance could not happen. There were some pre-election allegations between BJP and AIADMK but the lack of alliance between these two parties in fact negated any chance of Congress and DMK coming together.
Congress never had a base in TN in the last fifty years and DMK was reeling under strong charges of corruption. Still, an alliance between these two parties could at least provide some competition. Lack of alliance ensured it was Amma all the way!
Even in Maharashtra, state elections were fought the same way, albeit the pre-poll cat fight (considering it to be a pillow fight between BJP and SS). Both Congress and NCP were having an image crisis after being in the power for long and both Cong and NCP were trounced. Only aberration, if at all it can be called so, is BJP emerging as the largest party and giving a real chance to SS to get upset.
If one considers both words and actions of Uddhav Thackeray, it is clear that he is in no hurry to pull the rug from under the feet of Devendra Fadnavis, where really Sena could exert some pressure on BJP. At the centre, it was simply the benevolence of Modi, who honoured the pre-poll pact despite winning a majority on his own that made Sena a partner in the ruling coalition (at least that is how BJP wants the world to see it).
In all probabilities, there would be an alliance between BJP and Sena post BMC elections, as both parties will not be winning majority seats on their own. Despite the absence of alliance between BJP and SS, Congress is trying hard to forge an alliance with NCP, which anyway has very less presence in the city, to make sure that the ‘secular vote’ is not split.
But, Congress has to worry about the Owaisi factor. The in-charge of BMC elections is not the suave and sober Asaduddin Owaisi, but the notorious Akbaruddin Owaisi, who is expected to inflame the rising passions of Mumbai Muslims. If Akbaruddin does his job well, he would force the Hindu votes (should I call them non-secular or Communal) to polarise and this may weaken the Congress led coalition. Another factor both SS and BJP may take note is of the good old Raj Thackeray, who was waiting on the side-lines ever since he was side-lined by the people.
Whether it is a pillow fight or a real one, if Shivsena doesn’t emerge as the single largest party in BMC elections, it is end of game, for BMC allows the party coffers to fill. This, is not in the interests of even BJP, for the party would like to have Shivsena filling the space of opposition. The saffron alliance may evolve into a two party situation in the state and BMC, where Congress is marginalised.
PS: If Uddhav Thackeray withdraws support to Fadnavis, NCP would be extending the support, unconditionally. This, Pawar was ready to do in 2014 when Sena was dilly-dallying the decision on joining the BJP led government. Now, it becomes a sort of moral obligation on part of Pawar, after receiving the ‘Padma Vibhushan’.
Disclaimer: This article doesn’t state that BMC is ruled in good manner and the administration is smooth. How can I say so? I too live in Mumbai, where there are no roads! This is just a political analysis