Sena-BJP marriage is noisy, but it won't break anytime soon
- It feels it has a stronger claim to the Hindutva mantle
- Uddhav raps BJP over Ram temple, Dadri, price rise
- All Uddhav seems to want is \'meatier\' ministries
- He realises that a strong BJP needs the Sena less and less
- Also, NCP may step in if the Sena leaves the government
Trapped in the skin of an ally, the Shiv Sena, the sworn foe of the BJP, is at it again. It's shouting full-throated dissent against its "inferior, ineffective and dishonest'' Hindu ally, and reciting a litany of demands and grievances.
Most recently, this sentiment was articulated by Uddhav Thackeray while addressing the Dussehra rally of the party faithful at Mumbai's Shivaji Park on 22 October.
The Sena chief wants the BJP to give his starving, emaciated ministers more work, and soon. That means creamy, malaidar ministries in the Maharashtra government. Uddhav says he knows well when to quit the Hindu alliance and that critics ought not to guide him, or draw his attention to morality. His partymen will work hard for the people, he insists.
Then he assures the Sainiks that come the next election, he'll single-handedly hoist the party's saffron flag atop the legislature.
You aren't supposed to find logic in his arguments or his ambitious plan. Not that the Sainiks are used to doing that anyway, trained as they are to only carry home piously the leadership's diktat, and act single-mindedly and ruthlessly.
Don't ever ask why the BJP should walk the extra mile to feed the Sena so that, in return, it gets kicked off from both the alliance and the seat of power.
Too good for its partner?
Uddhav sincerely believes his party is far too honest a practitioner of Hindutva and too fierce a nationalist than the BJP or the RSS, and knows more about the art and science of governance. He says as much at the rally when he taunts the BJP for dragging its feet on the Ram temple. "Mandir wahi banayege, lekin tareekh nahin batayege!''
That's not all. The lynching of a Muslim man in Dadri on the suspicion of eating beef has tarnished India's image worldwide, Uddhav feels. And the killing of two Dalit children in Haryana is unacceptable. The BJP has also failed to curb rocketing prices of pulses and other commodities, he laments. In essence, according to the Sena chief, the BJP is good for nothing.
Scared of Pawar's pull with the BJP, Uddhav won't use the abuses his father had for the NCP chief
Yet, don't expect this heat to melt away the Hindu alliance. Uddhav declares he won't quit the alliance. In the same breath, however, he criticises Sharad Pawar for shamelessly staying at the feet of Sonia Gandhi just to enjoy power at the Centre.
Perhaps scared of the Machiavellian Pawar plotting with the BJP to cut the Sena to size, Uddhav doesn't repeat the choicest abuses his late father used to shower on the NCP chief. Instead, he asks his audience to provide a sample of Balasaheb's rich vocabulary.
Uddhav appears more confused than desperate in tackling the BJP. Both his father and Pramod Mahajan knew that sticking together was mutually beneficial. So, the alliance ran smoothly for a quarter of a century. Both of them are gone now.
Besides, a stronger BJP now needs the Sena less and less. The relationship of Narendra Modi, Gautam Adani and Pawar lends security to the BJP-led regime, despite Uddhav's routine floundering. The Sena may be married to the BJP, but Pawar enjoys a live-in relationship. He remains a master of dark manoeuvre and an expert navigator of the corridors of power.
In the internal struggle for leadership five years ago, the remarkably loyal Sena cadre sided with Uddhav and sidelined Raj Thackeray. Of late, however, Uddhav has been finding it difficult to keep the second rung of the party and its MLAs away from the warmth of power. Rather than moderate voices of reason, a small clique of Pawar pets in Sena-attire surround Uddhav now. And they go unchecked.
Balasaheb knew his party's weaknesses and the wretched power game too well. So, at times, he compromised with Pawar and the people of his ilk from the crafty Congress camp. Uddhav does not. He walks the chalk-mark and slips.
Too hard to crack
Uddhav is obstinate. He finds it hard to suppress the Sena's aggressive style, which his father used with great dexterity and convenience. He is oblivious of the fact that the BJP is ruling from the Centre, with a clear majority. There is no sober Atal Bihari Vajpayee now, instead he has a bulldozer called Modi to encounter.
Much before the Lok Sabha polls in 2014, hoardings for a Modi rally in Mumbai showed him as the roaring lion of the Gir. It was meant to counter the hegemony of the Sena's tiger in its own den. Yet, the party mistook Modi for another timid, skin-saving Gujarati trader living in Mumbai on protection money.
The Shiv Sena may be married to the BJP, but Pawar enjoys a live-in relationship: Pratap Thorat
The aggressive signals the BJP gave were lost on Uddhav. More importantly, when the new BJP under Modi emerged stronger than ever after the election, the continued bickering broke the old alliance.
In the assembly polls in late 2014, the two parties tested their strength separately. In the end, the Sena got only about half as many seats as the BJP. Certainly, it was not wise to join in government as both their hands were still holding swords. But the lust for power prevailed. And now the Sena is paying for it.
The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the organisation.