Shiv Sena vs BJP: Uddhav Thackeray is back to threatening 'arrogant' NDA ally

'Arrogance'.

This a word Uddhav Thackeray has begun using to describe the attitude of the Bharatiya Janata Party with which his party, the Shiv Sena, is in government. Both at the Centre, in an alliance, with a minister in the cabinet, and in Maharashtra, where it is not an ally but has ministers.

That is to say that the party is running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. And without yet completely breaking off from the BJP, it is talking of forming a third front of regional parties in the country because "(this) BJP is full of arrogance and we need to come together to wipe that (smile) off the party’s face". Although he has been talking about it, he told The Hindu in an interview published on Friday that the several parties could "come together on a Common Minimum Programme and decide on the next path. Frankly, I have not talked to anyone, but I have floated the idea. Let’s see the response".

File image of Devendra Fadnavis and Uddhav Thackeray. PTI

File image of Devendra Fadnavis and Uddhav Thackeray. PTI

The 'arrogance' of the BJP seems to have got under the skin of the man, and it could be the build-up to a later withdrawal from the National Democratic Alliance led by Narendra Modi. To battle Modi’s influence on the voters, the Sena has imported a Gujarati to seek Gujarati votes: Hardik Patel who demands quotas for the Patel community in his state. That could be a simple electoral strategy because with Marathi population declining in Mumbai, Sena needs Gujarati votes, but how he would curb BJP’s perceived arrogance would have to start by leaving the NDA and quitting the Maharashtra government first. Not by starting a third front without the former step. The other question is 'when?'.

This arrogance — or the BJP characteristic of being overbearing with the Sena — is not a new theme that Uddhav has discovered. He had  first alluded to it in October 2015 when he threatened to quit the NDA if the BJP "continues with its arrogance". Eknath Shinde, a Sena minister then handed his resignation to Uddhav on a stage.

Three months after what Devendra Fadnavis dismissed that as "drama", the BJP was warned again at a public meeting that if it did not mend its ways, and "shed its arrogance", the Sena would withdraw its support to the Maharashtra government led by the BJP. He continues to see that haughtiness in BJP but he hasn’t acted on his threat.

If and when he drops the bomb instead of stridently talking about it is another matter. The point remains that he cannot form an anti-BJP-front and then hope to remain in the offices it shares with the BJP. If that were the intent, other parties whatever their compulsions, may not find the Sena itself credible to join hands with.

The question is whether it's acceptable for Uddhav to call another party 'arrogant'. Sena’s history is replete with its “my way or the highway” attitude. Its idea had to become a decree if floated by Bal Thackeray, and later, the son and the nephew. The founder of the Shiv Sena is known to have said often that law, if inconvenient to its plans, was worth nothing. During the first few weeks of the Sena-BJP government, in 1995, when Manohar Joshi was the government’s helmsman, emerged the idea that Bangladeshis had to be weeded out of the city. Joshi was under pressure to act but saw the laws as a speed-breaker because a process was required. Thackeray just told him: You do it, or the party cadre will.

Joshi was too clever a man to easily succumb to pressure, and managed matters to another level when then Union home minister Indrajit Gupta was induced to step in. Gupta, himself a Bengali, persuaded Joshi to agree to bring West Bengal into the picture to help determine if a Bengali was from that state or from across the border, Bangladesh.

Time and again the party cadre had shown not just a feeling of being the lord and masters right from the shakhas, but have taken the law into their hands, blackening faces if the cadre thought someone had troubled another. Laws or not, the Sena considers itself an enforcer.

That comes from a sense of hubris, and muscle. Which is arrogance.


Published Date: Feb 10, 2017 01:48 pm | Updated Date: Feb 10, 2017 01:52 pm


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