Incessant Sena-BJP war of words has a purpose: to snap the alliance
Ever since they took power in Maharashtra in 2014, the allies BJP and Shiv Sena have practically been fighting a war of attrition. Sena leaders waste no opportunity, however small, to target the BJP, and the latter usually repay in kind.
The Sena is the BJP's oldest ally and they shared a cordial partnership for decades until the BJP formed the current government and allegedly started humiliating Sena leaders.
Shiv Sena had always been the big brother in the alliance in Maharashtra, winning more seats and taking the bigger share of the spoils when in power. That changed in 2014, when the BJP won more seats, relegating the Sena to playing second fiddle. Their new circumstances hurt Sena leaders no end, not least because they are getting payback for years of "mistreating" BJP leaders, including even such revered figures as Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Political analysts argue that the ongoing war of words would harm the Sena more as it's increasingly coming across as the ally that's always whining. In fact, veteran journalist Ganesh Vasant Torsekar said the party will pay dearly in the forthcoming local elections if it continues "mindless criticism" of the BJP.
Torsekar, who was close to Sena founder Bal Thackeray, discussed the subject at length in the latest post on his widely read Marathi blog. "Today's Sena leaders talk as if they are no less than Balasaheb. But they must realise that he commanded respect even from the opposition. If the current leaders continue to talk irresponsibly, the party will lose ground," he wrote.
Torsekar's post was contextualised by the Sena leadership's latest attack on the BJP. Speaking at the party's convention in Aurangabad early this month, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of "maligning" India's image, while Sanjay Raut had compared the Devendra Fadnavis regime to "Nizami rule". The latter remark, in particular, had got the BJP leaders all riled up.
BJP leaders are also angry with the Sena for "celebrating" Eknath Khadse's resignation from the cabinet over corruption allegation. The Sena leadership held a grudge against Khadse for advocating, in the run up to the 2014 election, that the BJP snap ties with its long-time ally.
Torsekar argued that Sena leaders, including Uddhav, are going "overboard", and for their own good, must put an end to the "tussle" with the BJP now.
Senior journalist Kumar Ketkar compared the "turn of events over the past few weeks" to the situation before the 2014 polls. "These are all efforts to snap the alliance. But then as now, neither party wants to take the blame for it. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah held a grudge against Balasaheb Thackeray for preferring Sushama Swaraj as prime minister. Also, BJP leaders have always been looking to pay the Sena back for the way Thackeray treated them," Ketkar said.
He recalled that senior BJP leaders such as Pramod Mahajan and Gopinath Munde were often required to rush to Matoshree, the Thackerays' residence, to "plead with and beg" Thackeray whenever he got upset with the party. Not just the leaders, BJP's cadres too suffered humiliation at the hands of the Sena for years. "Now, they want to settle the score. That is why BJP's leaders are reacting equally venomously to every attack from the Sena. They are trying to break the alliance," Ketkar said.
"Also, Modi and Shah want total control over the country's financial capital, and they will go to any extend for it. Their primary goal is to get a majority in the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. Shiv Sena's priority is to prevent the BJP from achieving this goal. If they succeed, the party can again force the BJP to form a post poll-alliance," he added.