BJP, Shiv Sena tensions set to escalate after election defeat

BJP, Shiv Sena tensions set to escalate after election defeat

New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), despite being the junior partner in the alliance, is poised to stake a claim to the post of leader of the opposition in the Maharashtra assembly.

If it follows through with its intent, it will set the stage for a face-off with its senior and oldest ally, the Shiv Sena, in Maharashtra at a time when their relations are already under strain. The BJP move comes after it registered a superior win record.

While the BJP is yet to formally make an announcement to this effect, senior leaders are signalling the intent clearly.

“It’s logical. Democracy is the game of numbers," said senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley, when asked if his party would stake such as claim.

Jaitley and general secretary Ananth Kumar have been appointed observers to elect a leader of the legislative party in Maharashtra. A meeting of the BJP lawmakers is scheduled on Friday in Mumbai.

Similar views have been expressed by state leaders as well. “As per the rules, we have more number of MLAs (members of legislative assembly) after the ruling alliance. So it is obvious we will get the post of leader of opposition in the assembly," state BJP general secretary Vinod Tawade told PTI.

The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance was stranded at the below-100 mark out of 288 seats in the recently held assembly polls in the state. The BJP won 46, two more than the Shiv Sena, while it contested 119 seats—50 less than what the Shiv Sena contested.

Despite several attempts by Mint, Shiv Sena leaders could not be reached for a response.

The BJP could decide upon its senior state leader and Jalgaon MLA Eknath Khadse for the post of leader of the opposition.

“By 2012, the elections in Bihar would be over and BJP would have a better option to chose between MNS (the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena) and Shiv Sena, according to the situation," said Navneet Deshpande, writer and columnist for Sakaal, a Pune-based Marathi-language newspaper. “An abrupt change of ally is not possible, but to create a situation towards that has already begun."

An analyst said any sudden decision of a change of ally could damage the BJP’s credibility. “It is tough to switch the ally in Maharashtra, although it may wish at some point in time. It damages the party’s credibility," said Vivek Kumar, associate professor at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.

PTI contributed to this story.