Shiv Sena: Losing Ground FastThe Shiv Sena has announced that it will fight the ensuing BMC elections alone. With this, it has ended a quarter century of electoral alliance with the BJP in Maharashtra. Signals to this effect were coming out of Matoshree for a long time, especially recently when Uddhav took the lead to rubbish demonetization. Narendra Modi has not been Thackerays favourite politician. Now, when Modis government has gone ahead and given the Padma Vibhushan to NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, the anger has magnified. How can any Marathi leader other than the late Bal Thackeray be considered for such an honour is what the Shiv Sena must be thinking. But in breaking the alliance, is the Sena cutting the nose to spite the face?
By Sunil Garodia
For if the alliance has been snapped, it is going to be Shiv Senas loss. As it is, the Sena is no longer the force it was once was. From a party driven by a Hindu agenda, it has now become a local party professing to cater to the Marathi constituency. Even there, its agenda is being hijacked by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) of Raj Thackeray. It is a measure of the political awareness of the people of Maharashtra that both these Senas are losing ground across the state. Their influence is now increasingly being limited to some pockets. MNS, despite the importance accorded to it by Karan Johar and Devendra Fadnavis in the Ae Dil Hai Mushkil controversy, is already a spent force. Only its ability to cause disruption through unruly cadres remains but that is commonplace now (refer to the Rajput Karni Sena and the attack on Padmavati sets). Shiv Sena, on the other hand, is fast descending into a position where it cannot even hope to play kingmaker, let alone rule.
The BJP has ensured this by giving the Padma award to Pawar. Since it is ruling Maharashtra as the single largest party with inside support from the Sena, it must have had its eyes on the block of MLAs of Pawars NCP in case things went awry with the Sena. The BJP has 122 MLAs while the halfway mark in the assembly is 145. Sena has 63 with 14 ministers. NCP has 41. Now if the Sena withdraws support, with Pawar mollycoddled, the BJP can always bank on his support to continue ruling the state. At the Centre, the Sena doesnt count at all. So for all practical purposes, it is the Sena that is going to lose. If the Sena is thinking that its alliance with a dominant partner like the BJP is threatening its existence and if it is feeling the need to chart a new course for itself after all these years, it will find it an extremely difficult task in the absence of charismatic leader like Bal Thackeray.