A party like the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), its ambitions confined to Odisha, is clearly hedging its bets for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. It has not indicated whether it will choose to go with the Opposition — the Mahagatbandhan or whatever moniker it turns up with — or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This is why it chose to abstain from the no-confidence vote against the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), or simply put, the BJP. It has kept its options unknown to others by using the wisdom of silence.
The Shiv Sena, on the other hand, has not been able to show this kind of maturity. The Sena has shown an utter lack of consistency with regard to its stand on the BJP in several ways, except that it wants to remain in the government — the Devendra Fadnavis administration in Maharashtra and Narendra Modi's at the Centre.
The curious aspect here is that despite its claims of promoting and sustaining Hindutva — a cause it has in common with the BJP — the Sena has been throwing mixed signals. While this may seem like the Sena's strategy, it appears as though the party is confused itself.
After BJP president Amit Shah's visit to Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray's home, the Sena has maintained a mysterious and uncharacteristic silence on what transpired during the talks and what its outcome was. On Friday, it decided to abstain from voting for or against the no-trust motion in the Lok Sabha, which does give the impression that Shah and Thackeray had reached some kind of agreement.
The Sena-BJP saga does not end there. Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut praised Congress president Rahul Gandhi's speech in the Lok Sabha on Friday. But even before the debate started, the party's mouthpiece Saamana went to the extent of describing the BJP as "butchers who save animals but kill humans".
The icing on the cake here is Saamana's view, which Raut edited, that "winning elections and remaining in power by hook or crook is not democracy". It calls the no-confidence motion a "sound thrashing" because of the NDA's numbers, and that it was bound to fail from the beginning. It accuses the NDA of using its majority as a "tool to indulge in dictatorship".
It also accuses the BJP of winning elections by manipulating electronic voting machines and making "democracy a scarecrow". If this is indeed the case, the Sena needs to explain why it is clinging onto its share in the governments at the Centre and in Maharashtra.
The Sena's decisions make it seem like a political party keen on hitting all the time but not wanting to hurt itself. Simply put, the Shiv Sena is dancing a foxtrot — one dancer starting with the left foot, taking two steps forward, stepping to the side and then closing the square, while its partner does the opposite. This involves movement but does not cover any distance.
This has been the state of affairs since the 2014 Assembly election results were announced: the Sena opted to be the Opposition, staked claim to a leader's position, backed out, kept haranguing the BJP, played the role of the Opposition — but more of a whiner's — within the government and then announced that it will go at it alone in the next elections.
The Shiv Sena cannot possibly be concerned about the stability of the BJP-led government in Maharashtra. The Modi government is also not at the risk of destabilising if the Sena withdraws its support for the NDA at the Centre. The Sena is likely making its decisions only with the aim to maximise whatever pre-electoral gains it can muster for itself.
However, the abstention from the no-confidence vote does smack of a Shah-Thackeray deal, at least for the nonce, regardless of what it actually is.
Updated Date: Jul 21, 2018 13:54 PM