Relations between NDA allies Shiv Sena and BJP took a turn for the worse on Friday, with the Sena threatening to pull out of the alliance on account of the government's demonetisation decision, and the BJP calling them "hypocritical".
Ironically, it was former prime minister Manmohan Singh's words that engineered the rift. Singh had made a speech in Parliament on Thursday, saying the demonetisation step was a "monumental management failure" which would lead to a dip in GDP growth by at least 2 percent.
A day later, Shiv Sena exhorted its ally to pay heed to Singh's words, as he was a "renowned economist". "Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is a renowned economist. Thus, his words and opinions should be taken seriously. The way in which money is being collected, seems that money is being extorted from common man. You have brought tears in the eyes of people who made you come to power with a lot of aspirations," said Uddhav Thackeray, Shiv Sena chief, according to a report in NDTV.
The report goes on to add that the Sena has demanded a referendum be held in India to determine the future of demonetisation; a referendum along the lines of Brexit that was held in Britain earlier this year. "I will not hesitate in taking a critical stand on the process in which demonetisation was implemented. The way in which a referendum was sought in Britain before its withdrawal from the European Union, a survey is being done here. But seeing people's response, their (UK) Prime Minister chose to step down. Will something similar happen here?" he asked, referring to a people's survey conducted by the prime minister on the Narendra Modi app.
Relations between the two partners have been troubled for quite a while. Even before the demonetisation move started making headlines, Sena had been needling the Centre over cross-border violence and the mutilation of an Indian Army soldier along the Line of Control (LoC).
"The government is not ready to talk on Pakistan's activities at the border. When will the government show its patriotism by avenging the killings and beheadings of Indian soldiers?" Sena had asked in an editorial in party mouthpiece Saamana. "If the Prime Minister has made everyone come out on the streets with one decision (of demonetisation), he needs to take a similar decision one evening to crush Pakistan," it said.
But clearly, these words have not gone down too well with the senior partner in the alliance. The BJP has retaliated to these provocations, saying Sena may go ahead and act upon its threats and pull out of the alliance if it so wishes. "The Shiv Sena is taking a hypocritical stand over black money. I dare them to take the extreme step which they have been threatening," said BJP's Mumbai city president and MLA Ahish Shelar, while addressing party workers said at Thane while addressing party workers. “If the Sena stands by black money, people will send them to Kala Paani,” he said, according to a report in the New Indian Express.