Mayoral elections in cities apart from Mumbai do not get as much attention as Nashik's has. There, with 40 Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s (MNS) councillors, the party put forward Yatin Wagh on the ballot. To secure the post, which it has, the MNS pulled every stop except beg the Shiv Sena for help.
When Shiv Sena turned its face away, the BJP saddled up as knight in shining armour and led the MNS to the mayoral chair. MNS' Yatin Wagh won, along with BJP's Satish Kulkarni as his deputy.
So what? It is just local municipal politics?
Well, it could have been that, had the MNS not been at the centre of it all. And had the other dramatis personae not included Shiv Sena and the BJP. This could now sour the relationship between the old partners.
Raj Thackaray, hell bent on taking the top slot in Nashik – the city amid vineyards, and growing well – went to the extent of offering support to the Sena to put its man in the Thane mayor's office. He also signalled that since his was the largest party in Nashik, his candidate would win. But the Sena stood on formalities. And the MNS did not wait on Sena leaders (read Uddhav). Raj Thackeray did not come down on his knees. So why oblige him with having his dream materialise?
This is not merely a narrative of local municipal politics. This has a bearing on the longest running political alliance between the Shiv Sena and the BJP that has weathered many a storm in the past. This time, however, it could be different because the BJP thinks that the MNS has come of age. After its rite of passage, MNS deserves space in the alliance.
Sena, however, would not want to associate with the MNS after the bad-blood between the cousins Raj and Uddhav. Though left to himself, Bal Thackeray may not be averse to making concessions to get the prodigal back as his next-door neighbour, if not into his home. His home has a sub-tenant: Uddhav.
The BJP had canvassed for the MNS long before the rustle for the Nashik mayoral elections. In six years, a start-up had made remarkable progress and at the same time hurt the saffron alliance. That hurt, the BJP reckons, can recur if the MNS is not taken into embrace. That, however, would be an embarrassment for Uddhav Thackeray who tried to stymie the MNS by sitting on formalities.
Raj’s signals were apparently not enough. He had backed the Sena in Thane; he had abstained from voting for the Mumbai mayor's post held by the Sena as a goodwill gesture. He kept harping that if any party emerged the single largest in any city, it would mean that party had the mandate to run the city's government.
It was water off the duck's back as far as Uddhav was concerned. While this ganging up of BJP and MNS may not mean the end of the Sena-BJP alliance, it is bound to vitiate it in the run up to the 2014 Assembly elections. This will make the BJP demand more respect within the alliance than it has going so far, than it ever got before.
This development has clearly conveyed that the MNS credentials are acceptable to the BJP and if push comes to shove, they could even be partners. BJP would prefer a threesome of course, with the MNS included. It also means that BJP is putting on display more gumption than it ever did before and that it is tiring of playing second fiddle.
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