Shiv Sena’s blackmail continues; BJP wouldn’t react as of now

The Shiv Sena concedes that its performance in this Assembly election has been sub-par but still believes it can extract its pound of flesh

Continuing with its act of arm-twisting the bigger NDA ally BJP, the Shiv Sena said on Sunday that the “remote control of power” in Maharashtra was now in the hands of party chief Uddhav Thackeray. The party has the gall to say this despite securing fewer seats in the Assembly this time than in 2014, a poorer strike rate and just about 50% of the number of seats the BJP has won.

During the first Shiv Sena-BJP coalition government in the state from 1995 to 1999, the late Bal Thackeray, the founder of Shiv Sena, used the term “remote control” often; in media commentary, too, the term was used while describing the real status of whoever Balasaheb chose to make the chief minister. The Shiv Sena, along with their other demands, wants the BJP to give an assurance in writing that they will share power “equally”, which would include the larger partner’s assurance that there will be two chief ministers in the coming five years, one from the BJP and the other from the Sena, with each occupying the chair for two-and-a-half years.

In his column “Rok Tok” in the Sena mouthpiece Saamana, Sanjay Raut has written, “Shiv Sena has won fewer seats this time. It has won 56 seats compared to 63 in 2014, but it holds the key to power.”

The Shiv Sena on Saturday had sought an assurance from its ally BJP in writing that it would implement the “equal share of power formula” (50:50) in Maharashtra. Fishing in the troubled waters, the Congress has said that the Uddhav Thackeray-led party should find an “alternative system”.

The newly elected Shiv Sena MLAs met party president Uddhav Thackeray at his residence in Mumbai. He demanded that his son and Yuva Sena chief Aditya Thackeray be made the chief minister. This is the third day of relentless pressure exerted by the Sena on its pre-poll ally since the day the regional party was known to have won 56 seats while the BJP won 105 in the Maharashtra Assembly election held on 21 October, the result of which was declared on 24 October.

The MLAs authorised the Shiv Sena chief to take a decision regarding the formation of the new government. A Shiv Sena MLA said, “Uddhav Thackeray has said that he has other options open. But he is not interested in finding them because BJP and Shiv Sena are tied to each other through the ideology of Hindutva.”

BJP not to react to Shiv Sena’s blackmail until…

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Pradesh BJP chief Chandrakant Patil, when asked about the much-reported demand by the Shiv Sena for the post of chief minister for two and a half years, simply said, “Everyone has the right to express views.”

Elected from Kothrud seat in Pune city, Patil said that the final decision on government formation would be taken by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. He told reporters that the newly-elected BJP MLAs would meet in Mumbai on 30 October to elect the leader of the BJP legislative party.

A source in the national leadership of the BJP told Sirf News that accepting the condition of making Aaditya Thackeray the chief minister was out of the question but added that “some arrangement will be worked out” after the legislative party meeting.

To put counter-pressure on the Shiv Sena, the BJP may go to the extent of telling its junior partner it is ready to stay out of power, said sources. A section in the party thinks if the present imbroglio does not end on or after 30 October, it could lead to a Karnataka-like situation in Maharashtra after which a mid-term poll will have to be called if the BJP refuses to form a minority government with its present tally. Then, the party could go it all alone, repeating the 2014 numbers or even surpassing it, a senior politician said.

Seeking assurances in the written form is being seen as Shiv Sena’s way to pressure the larger partner. The BJP has lost 17 seats in this election compared to 2014 and its number of seats has come down from 122 in 2014 to 105. Nevertheless, it is the first time the BJP managed to secure at least the position of the single-largest party after five years of incumbency for the first time in Maharashtra.

According to political analysts, the BJP’s poor performance has increased Shiv Sena’s bargaining power. However, the number of seats of Shiv Sena has also come down from 63 in 2014 to 56 now.

On Thursday, the Shiv Sena had begun the blackmail by reminding the BJP of the “50: 50 formula”, which was allegedly agreed upon between BJP president Amit Shah, Thackeray and Fadnavis ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election. According to sources, by this formula, Shiv Sena and BJP will have chief ministers on a cyclical basis and both parties will get an equal number of berths in the Cabinet. Thackeray had said, “We (Shiv Sena) contested fewer seats in Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. I cannot make room for the BJP every time. I want to remind the BJP of the formula that was made in the presence of Amit Shah.”

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