About a year ago, when I called Shiv Sena, the most irrelevant regional party in Indian politics, many disagreed. The reason why I called it so was because it was the only party, that could not come into power in the state on its own, despite existing for half a century. Considering Shiv Sena claims they are the reason for the creation of Maharashtra, one wonders, why people did not elect them immediately after the state was created. One of the newest parties, Telangana Rashtra Samiti, which demanded to carve Telangana from the common Andhra Pradesh has come to power with a resounding victory in the state elections. Perhaps, the reason behind the failure of Shiv Sena is that they are consistently – inconsistent.
In line with the age old regional satraps, who supported invaders, and just to settle internal bickering, offered India on a platter, son of self-proclaimed Hindu Hriday Samrat started back channel discussions with Congress so that the Shiv Sena’s rule on Mumbai may continue. Apparently, Uddav Thackeray offered Deputy Mayor post to Congress, for their support to make a Sainik, Mayor of Mumbai. Well, we’ll see the possible fall-outs if and if not this Saffron-Secular alliance happens.
To quote Congress MLA Abdul Sattar, close aide of “Adarsh” tainted Ashok Chavan, as reported in Indian Express “The party will take a call on extending support after receiving a formal proposal from the Shiv Sena. Since the BJP is our principal rival, the party’s state unit will submit a formal proposal to the high command on supporting the Shiv Sena not only in the BMC but in other civic bodies and Zilla Parishads across the state.”
Election of Mayor to Mumbai is scheduled for 9th March. Given the combination of seats in BMC, Shiv Sena and BJP together have 84% seats and this combination can provide most stable administration to Mumbai. Senior BJP leader Nitin Gadkari already said this much though he left it to the wisdom of Devendra Fadnavis and Uddhav Thackeray. By that time, it appears one visit by BJP’s Maharashtra state unit president Raosaheb Danve Patil to Matoshree, has already happened, even before the counting started.
Post counting, when the results were out, it was neither BJP nor Congress that was more rattled, but a beleaguered Shiv Sena. For BJP, Maharashtra matters more than Mumbai i.e., BJP can live without control over BMC. Congress, which has now become like a fakir, has nothing to lose, whatever happens. In the current state the party is in, whatever happens, would be considered positive. It is Shiv Sena, which was already troubled by the demonetisation move, would lose the flow of finances, if they let Mumbai to go out of their hands. In fact, the party was so much content with the continuous financial flow from the richest corporation of India, they never looked beyond it, which reduced the psyche of the party to Municipality level.
On its part, Shiv Sena helped Congress many times and in the past received same gesture too. From supporting Pranab Mukherjee against PA Sangma, to supporting Congress candidate against Krishna Menon (not that Krishna Menon is a better candidate) way back in ’62, Shiv Sena has hobnobbed with Congress. Considering the prime objective of Shiv Sena is to control BMC so that the families that have prospered in the corporation continue to prosper, every option is open for Shiv Sena.
But, the alliance with Congress may be suicidal for Shiv Sena, though it appears that the plan acts like elixir in the near future. BJP would go around Maharashtra (even to those places, where Marathi speaking people are in majority) and explain how Shiv Sena had mortgaged the Marathi Asmita, by joining not only hands but entire municipal body with Congress.
In the next elections, it would be really difficult for Shiv Sena to go and face voters, and they would be reduced to the state of MNS. As Congress, like a good parasite grow at the cost of alliance partner, it is Shiv Sena that would be at loss.
For Congress, extending support to Shiv Sena is a double-edged sword. Congress has nothing much to gain from accepting the Deputy Mayor post for supporting Shiv Sena in return. In the state of Maharashtra and in the rest of India, Congress would spend decades explaining the legitimacy of this illegitimate alliance. But, even now, Congress is hands in glove with Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, and is a minor partner in the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ that is currently ruling Bihar and was in alliance with even CPI(M) in Bengal, where it spent decades fighting Marxists.
For BJP, however Shiv Sena is a secondary threat and it is not in the best intentions of the party to wipe out Shiv Sena. Reciprocating the Abdul Sattar’s view on being the principal rival, BJP would like to see Congress wiped out. And if not for Sena, who else would fill the vacuum, not only in Mumbai but in entire state of Maharashtra? In the long run, it is Shiv Sena only that could be a credible opposition to BJP or vice-versa.
However, the man behind the downfall of Shiv Sena, Sanjay Raut has no long-term gains in such proposition, though the same may not be true for Thackerays. It was Sanjay Raut, who time and again ridiculed BJP and transformed the relationship to an acrimonious one. The language used by him in the editorials and the actions forced on to the party based on his ‘lack of vision’ have widened the gap within the saffron alliance. Whether it was in 2014 or in 2017, the way he spoke and made his party act explains that Sanjay Raut lacks utter lack of sense to understand the ground reality. Often his talk resembles those who live in the past, harping on the past greatness, without acknowledging the existing reality.
Even in his heydays, Balasaheb Thackeray could not win the state. And Sena got to rule BMC only in the eighties, after a decade of propping up of Thackeray by the Congress, to counter the anti-Hindi uprising in Tamilnadu, by letting Sena attack Tamilians in the city. Shiv Sena had already distanced from Gujarati voters, who had a substantial presence, during the state formation struggle. After Tamilians, both Shiv Sena and its off-shoot MNS have targeted poor migrants of UP and Bihar. Shiv Sena thrives in the city primarily on the Marathi vote. Not so surprisingly, much like Congress, Shiv Sena too was successful in keeping their vote bank poor so that they continuously support the party. All the while, party elite dates the city’s elite in social gatherings and forge business partnerships, especially in real estate.
Given such background, if Sanjay Raut feels it would be wise for the party to fashion an alliance with Congress, he needs nothing short of a miracle to let Shiv Sena win any elections in the future. The egoistic nonsense he spreads through the party’s mouth piece is the main reason for the current situation. It is time for Uddhav Thackeray to let his son control the decisions party may take, rather than letting Raut to rot the future. Aditya Thackeray, despite being young had displayed a much-conditioned temper and has a knack to have better political perceptions. It is time for Uddhav Thackeray to understand the reality of how the party has shrunk. Well, increasing seats from 75 to 84 in the only municipality that is controlled by the party, while the discredited and discarded alliance partner increased tally to 82, from 31 is a ‘diminution’ of stature. Of course, it is true if BJP and Sena fought together, they would never have achieved this much. But, it is time for the head of Shiv Sena to lock himself in a room and meditate and decide how he wanted his party to be after a decade or two decades. It is for Uddhav Thackeray to decide whether to stay relevant in the tomorrow’s Maharashtra or perish like his estranged cousin.
Decisions taken in the interests of people are always respected. If Shiv Sena takes support of BJP, they would be respecting the mandate of the people of the city and providing a stable and growth oriented administration. If they choose to align with the discarded Congress, it tantamount to disrespecting the people’s verdict.
PS: I personally like to hear ‘not yet mature’ Rahul Gandhi explaining the logic behind Congress entering into alliance with Shiv Sena in the west and CPI(M) in the east. Not to mention Laloo and Akhilesh in the north! Seems only the south is left. Another case explaining benefits of having more educated people?