Amit Shah's other Mission 2019: a Shiv Sena-mukt BJP in Maharashtra
With its tail up after its recent success in various state Assembly polls, as well as civic polls in Maharashtra, the Bharatiya Janata Party has now set its sights on its next big goal – coming to power without any allies in Maharashtra.
Party president Amit Shah is set to visit the state for three days next month, 16-18 June, to oversee its functioning and review the performances of the BJP's MPs and MLAs. The next Assembly polls in the state are set to be held in 2019, soon after that year's Lok Sabha elections.
“For this, we have decided to get aggressive in propagating the party ideology, and eliminating the Opposition, be it the Shiv Sena or any other party. Despite being in power with us, Shiv Sena leaders are behaving like Opposition and creating hurdles in governance. If we have a clear majority in the house, we need not depend on anyone. And after the UP and other elections, we are confident of achieving this goal,” said a senior BJP leader, who did not wish to be named.
Sources said Shah, during his tour, will meet people from different sections of society to discuss the achievements of the Central government over the last three years, and will invite their opinion on it. Shah will also meet party workers, MPs and MLAs to evaluate their performance.
Keeping Sena and NCP at bay
In the last Assembly polls in 2014, the BJP wanted to achieve magic number of 145 in the 288-member house, but ended up with 122 seats. Hence, it had to take support from the Shiv Sena to form the government.
And though the parties have often been touted as 'natural' allies, given their Hindutva ideology, BJP leaders were sceptical about sharing power with the Shiv Sena; a feeling that was reciprocated by the regional force.
Right from the beginning, Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray has been very critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. However small the opportunity to criticise them may be, he immediately grabs it.
“Thackeray has set a record for threatening to snap the alliance and walk out of power. We are waiting for the day when he walks the talk. He has flexed his muscles enough. Now it’s time for action,” said the BJP leader.
Fadnavis has categorically kept Shiv Sena ministers away from vital portfolios, and they are not even included in major decisions and the policy-making process. On an administrative level, the Shiv Sena has been reduced to insignificant ministries. Due to this, Shiv Sena can neither claim credit for any major achievement in the state, nor can it take a firm stand on withdrawing from the government.
On one hand, Fadnavis has kept Shiv Sena under control, and on the other, he has cut Sharad Pawar's NCP to size. The reforms in the cooperative sector have not only shattered the NCP's control on the sector, but have also cut financial gains of the NCP from the sector.
The decision to withdraw Special Planning Authority (SPA) status to Lavasa, the first manmade hill station near Pune, is considered to be one of the biggest blows to Sharad Pawar in recent times.
What analysts feel
According to senior journalist and political analyst Abhay Deshpande, late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan had set the target of 'shat pratishat BJP' (100% BJP) in Maharashtra. The party has been working to achieve the same ever since.
“On the national level, the BJP wants a Congress-free India, and in Maharashtra, the target is Shiv Sena-free BJP. They want to get rid of the support permanently,” he said.
“Despite being in power, Uddhav Thackeray has been criticising BJP almost every day. He can only threaten to walk out of the alliance, but cannot ever act on it, because, he is afraid that the NCP will save the government. And if the NCP doesn't support it and the government falls, it will be entirely blamed on Shiv Sena, and it will suffer huge political loss. This is the reason Thackeray is not walking out of the government,” Deshpande said.
Deshpande said the BJP can grow in the state only if the Shiv Sena is eliminated, and Shah is systematically working on it. The BJP is most likely to contest all the 48 LS seats and 288 Assembly seats in Maharashtra in 2019.
However, senior journalist and political analyst Kumar Ketkar said: “No matter how hard the BJP tries to eliminate the Opposition, it will not succeed. The efforts started by Shah and Modi will boomerang sooner or later. It is nothing but political colonisation.”
He pointed out that BJP has no leadership except Modi and Shah. “The basic requirement for penetration to grass root levels is a two-way dialogue with people. Here, it is nowhere to be seen. They have set a target of 400 seats in the Lok Sabha and 200 seats in the Maharashtra Assembly. But they will never achieve it,” Ketkar said.