With latest updates coming from Maharashtra, Shiv Sena seems to be poised to form the government along with the support of Congress-NCP in the state, the very parties Thackeray led party fought the elections against. This comes after the Governor had invited BJP to form the government, and the BJP had refused for the same citing the lack of numbers. Though it is not the first time when such political developments have surfaced, it is to note that specific political dynamics relating to Shiv Sena and BJP certainly make this case important for the future political discourse in India.
Winning a clear majority in the elections BJP-Shiv Sena alliance with its 161 seats in the 288 seat Maharashtra assembly was certainly poised to retain power with CM Devendra Fadnavis continuing for his second term. However, for the Sena, despite being a junior partner in the alliance with just half (56) the seats compared to its alliance partner the BJP (105), ambitions have pushed the Maharashtra based party to demand a larger cut of the cake.
The Shiv Sena demanded that Aaditya Thackeray, son of Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray be made Chief Minister for 2.5 years in a BJP led NDA government. To this, BJP stood firm and held that former CM Devendra Fadnavis shall be CM for all five years if BJP, the single largest party, forms government. Thereafter, Shiv Sena, a right-leaning political party threatened to form an alliance with the polar opposite NCP and the Congress.
It is one thing to form a post poll alliance in the case of a hung assembly, but completely another when a pre-poll alliance is ditched for a post-poll one clearly for selfish gains. The magnitude of ‘betrayal’ that the Sena is resorting to could effectively trigger the beginning of it’s end, as all this while, the BJP has not launched a political attack against the Sena but that may change and will prove devastating for the Thackerays.
Hence, the BJP stood its ground and in a press conference yesterday called on Shiv Sena for disrespecting the people’s mandate in the state. “Despite the mandate with the alliance with Shiv Sena, we will not form govt. We have conveyed this to the Governor. If they (Shiv Sena) want to form govt with Congress & NCP then our best wishes to them” said state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil.
Nonetheless, for Shiv Sena this move to join hands with the NCP and Congress is surely a very risky bet, which can not only lead to massive migration of pro-Hindutva voices from the Sena but also might prove the final nail in the coffin of the party which has been struggling to find its identity since the demise of Balasaheb Thackeray.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar, on the one hand, had said that people have given them verdict to sit in opposition while on the other his party leaders have been making statements that they are ready to support Shiv Sena if they walk out of NDA. With the diktat to leave NDA, and reports confirming SS MP Arvind Ganpat Sawant quitting the cabinet, NCP is surely preparing burial ground for Shiv Sena.
The majority of the voters who backed Maha Yuti are ardently anti-Congress and anti-NCP. They have been opposed to the regime of Congress-NCP which ruled the state for 15 years before Modi led BJP defeated them in 2014. As Shiv Sena leaves NDA and goes with the Congress-NCP alliance to form the government and take the CM chair; the people of Maharashtra are sure to react to this blatant desecration of the mandate.
The performance of Shiv Sena in 2019 was very poor compared to previous assembly election. In the 2014 assembly election, Shiv Sena performed exceptionally well in Western Maharashtra, the traditional stronghold of NCP. The party won 12 seats in Western Maharashtra in 2014, but, the tally was reduced to 5 in 2019 elections. The overall vote percentage of the party also declined from 19.35 per cent to 16.4 per cent. It is also to note that Shiv Sena had supported Congress during the period Indira Gandhi had imposed national emergency on the nation.
With Sena already on a decline, NCP will certainly be eyeing to capture Shiv Sena’s vote as it is a major threat to NCP. The voter base of BJP is in coastal and Northern areas, and this vote base has remained loyal to BJP. But, the party has never been very strong in Western Maharashtra- the bastion of the Pawars. Shiv Sena had the ability to challenge NCP in Western Maharashtra given the fact it is seen as traditional Maratha party and, a non-corrupt alternative to NCP. Moreover for the BJP, this move by Uddhav Thackeray might also prompt disappointed leaders to jump ships given the polar opposite ideologies of the Shiv Sena and NCP-Congress.
There could indeed be more benefit in sitting back and watching the Sena obliterate itself out of its own greed as no better outcome, as that seen in the case of the Congress-JDS alliance in Karnataka, is expected from a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government. While the Sena has focussed on the short term gain from backstabbing its natural ally, the BJP, by this move has thought of the long term stability of not only the government formed in Maharashtra but also of the ruling political coalition the NDA.