Shiv Sena threatens to quit Devendra Fadnavis govt. Will it?
Allies for over two decades, the BJP and the Shiv Sena are set to part ways. The split has been on the horizon since the 2014 Lok Sabha election result was declared. The allies contested last year's election to the Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation separately, and are now doing the same in the case of the election to the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai.
For the MCGM election, the BJP asked to contest 114 seats, which offended the Sena leadership. For long the senior partner in the alliance, the Shiv Sena found itself in an awkward position after the BJP won more seats in the last assembly election held in late 2014. Since then, the Sena leadership has used every chance to undermine the BJP and show that it remained the Big Brother in Maharashtra, no matter the numbers in the assembly.
In the ongoing campaign for the MCGM polls, the Sena is aggressively cornering the BJP. The party's chief Uddhav Thackeray went so far as to challenge Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to a debate.
Cheekily, Uddhav has latched on to the central government's description of the MCGM, which is run by the Sena, as the best civic body in the country "in terms of transparency in governance" to target the BJP and, particularly, Fadnavis.
"The central government has certified the MCGM as the most transparent civic body in India but the state BJP leaders are not aware of it," Thackeray said recently. Fadnavis responded in kind at public meeting in Mulund, an eastern suburb of Mumbai, by "exposing Shiv Sena's lies". The MCGM, he claimed, has "scored zero on all five counts pertaining to direct involvement of people in decision-making".
Not to be deterred, Uddhav raised the rhetoric up a notch, threatening to walk out of the alliance with the BJP for the sake of Marathi Manoos. Taking a cue from their leader, senior Sena ministers have offered to resign. "We go around with resignation letters in our pockets. We do not have a problem resigning if directed by the party leader. We will resign, fight polls, get a clear majority and show the BJP its place," said Ramdas Kadam before going, along with fellow Sena ministers, to meet Fadnavis late last night.
As if to prove that Kadam's wasn't a hollow threat, Diwakar Raote pulled out a "resignation letter" from his pocket for everyone gathered outside the chief minister's residence to see.
Interestingly, the letter was addressed to Uddhav and not the governor as demanded by the protocol. It wasn't signed either. In any case, no minister has resigned so far, despite all the bluster.
When they met Fadnavis last night, the Shiv Sena ministers handed over a "memorandum of demands". Their key demand is a "complete loan waiver" for the farmers of Maharashtra, like what the BJP has promised to the voters of Uttar Pradesh.
"If the BJP can give that assurance to the farmers of UP, why can't the same be offered to farmers in Maharashtra?" Kadam asked.
A fair demand, arguably, but one that the Congress beat the Sena to by some time. The opposition party has asked for a farm loan waiver for Maharashtra's farmers soon after the BJP released its UP election manifesto, containing the promise. And this has somewhat blunted the Sena's bluster.
The BJP appears to have caught on to it. "If Shiv Sena ministers want to resign, they are free to do so," said BJP spokesperson Keshav Upadhyay. "The state government is strong and will complete its tenure of five years, with or without Shiv Sena. We are short of just 23 MLAs, and that can be easily managed."