Mumbai: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) impressive show at the local body polls in Maharashtra has inflamed the Shiv Sena, which fears its senior partner is gradually edging it out of its stronghold.
Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday said the BJP won more seats because it had struck “unholy” alliances with even rivals at some places.
“The Shiv Sena fought on its own and had a very low-profile campaign unlike the BJP which led a high-pitch campaign. The chief minister held around 50 rallies himself. If we had formed the sort of alliances the BJP did, we also would have won many more seats,” Thackeray said. A day earlier, Sena MP Sanjay Raut had accused the BJP of “misusing the government machinery” in the elections.
On Tuesday, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis refused to respond to Raut, saying he would talk only to Thackeray.
A senior BJP leader from Mumbai, who requested anonymity, said the Sena was particularly stung by Fadnavis’s emphasis on “BJP becoming the number one party in Maharashtra at all levels”.
“Shiv Sena has always prided itself on being the number one party, the big brother of the alliance. But we took away that title in 2014 and have consolidated our position since then. This BJP has not only got performance to beat the Sena but also temper to give it back to Sena,” this leader said.
The development signals more hostilities ahead of the remaining phases of local body elections and later, the more significant polls to 10 municipal corporations including Mumbai. Three more phases of municipal council elections are scheduled on 14 and 18 December and 8 January in 8 districts. Later, around February 2017, 10 municipal corporations including Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, and Nashik go to polls.
Above all, it is the election to 227-member Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) which will be a real test of nerves and numbers for the reluctant partners. In the current BMC, the Sena has 75 members and BJP 31. They have an alliance which is also supported by some independents. In the 2012 elections, the Sena had contested 162 seats leaving 65 for the BJP. “This arrangement is history now and we won’t settle for a seat less than 115 if there is to be an alliance. We have grown in strength and every election since 2012 has proved that. It has to be an alliance between equals though we are the big brother now,” said the BJP leader.
The BJP leader quoted above said the party, especially Fadnavis, was keen on a good relationship with the Sena. “But despite our best efforts, Sena continues with its anti-government posturing and routinely criticizes Modiji. There is no reason why we should take this animosity and sarcasm lying down. We are ruling the country and the state; Sena needs to learn that,” the leader said.