Shiv Sena’s crisis in Maharashtra: Uddhav’s indecision is killing the party

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November 7, 2014

Is the Bharatiya Janata Party engaged in an elaborate mating dance with the Shiv Sena to form a majority post-poll coalition government, or is it trying to defang the latter? The possibility of the second appears stronger.

Here's how.

November 7, 2014

Is the Bharatiya Janata Party engaged in an elaborate mating dance with the Shiv Sena to form a majority post-poll coalition government, or is it trying to defang the latter? The possibility of the second appears stronger.

Here's how.

Recall the line from the blockbuster, The Godfather, "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse"

Contrariwise, the BJP has made an offer to its former ally that it can't accept: positions in the one Narendra Modi ministry already fronted by Anant Geete in it, who didn't and wasn't asked to quit following the split between the partners.

It is tying up the party into knots.

If this 'offer' were to be accepted, Shiv Sena will have to forego its other demands, especially the post of deputy chief minister and a third of the state cabinet for its nominees and still settle for less.

More importantly, the BJP wouldn't have to – which it anyhow doesn't want to – induct any of Sena's nominees as a precondition for the backing of its former ally in the trust vote next week.

It may not be an over-reading of the tea leaves if the BJP's moves in relation to the Shiv Sena were to be described as masterly. By depending on the NCP's support to get through the confidence vote, it has been signaled that if the Sena remained recalcitrant, it loses all. Geete may not have to be in the Modi cabinet. If it falls in line, some more plums are on offer, but moderate ones.

In short, the BJP has only got the Shiv Sena precisely where it wants it: thrashing about in utter confusion, unable to decide whether to be in Opposition and help redraw alignments across parties, or bend to the single-largest party's wishes and show some humility.

If that happens though, the Sena stands defanged, becomes a subservient partner, showing its fealty.

Showing humility is something hard to do for the Shiv Sena, known for its swagger, and pride in what it calls "Our way" – its decisive, even extra-legal means of conducting its politics. The dithering in the party after the hung verdict in the Assembly elections has not added one whit to its lustre.

If anything, especially Uddhav Thackeray's indecision stands out. Such leaders are not useful to an ambitious party. The two sides in the party, pro-opposition benches and pro-power cliques have made their choices known. The manner in which he has been hemming and hawing only shows that he is more worried about those who hunger for positions instead of the party. He appears to nurse fears that some of them may walk away from his flock.

That is something he may not want despite winning 63 seats in trying circumstances, which is no small achievement. And the fact that he could not attract even the single-largest party to the Sena may be galling but by his ambivalence, he hasn't added anything to his political CV.

This is the first time a Sena boss has become democratic and has been spending time seeking counsel of his next-rung leaders.

This is the worst leadership crisis in the Shiv Sena which Uddhav Thackeray alone has to resolve. And the BJP isn't helping, for it is trying to build a political mosaic where it emerges the strongest and remains the major pole in the state. It is playing a hard-knuckled game, nothing less.

It shouldn't be surprising if the BJP is playing a mid-term game of appearing to offer continued partnership in Delhi so its other partners don't lose confidence in it.

It may be counting on unrest in the Sena top power-hungry clique to emerge and possibly even split. There are murmurs of this possibility heard in the political circles. NCP's offer of unsolicited support, it has to be understood, was no kindness to BJP; it is more a facilitation of a crisis within the Sena.

Once the vote of confidence is taken, thanks to an obliging, even willing NCP, there are six long months for several political games to be played out. It could then be as interesting as the elections were, and possibly murkier.

Here's how the cookie seems to be crumbling:

The BJP to the Sena: after having abused us in the elections, if you still want a share of the pie, as best as we can give, first show some humility and stand up in support during the trust vote. You will get some decent reward, but not the place of an important number two. That's the price.

The Shiv Sena to the BJP: If you want us on your side, then buy our support by first paying a price for it, and just ignore the harsh things we said about you in the heat of campaigning. If possible, add some icing on the cake in the form of a deputy chief ministership.


Courtesy: Firstpost

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