Kirit Somaiya may have expected to be nominated by the BJP at the very last moment for re-election from his Mumbai North East seat and kept his counsel, which is very unlike him. He did not show any irk, bravado, or even complain. He sought out Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' help to mediate between the top brass of both parties. Nothing worked and the Shiv Sena prevailed.
And therein lies a story waiting to unravel over time, perhaps during the election to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly.
For the uninitiated, why a man who won with a substantive margin in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, got dropped to keep the local party unit (including at the constituency level) on tenterhooks, is a classic case of a national party capitulating to a smaller one because this round of elections is now more important than the one held five years ago. Given the stance of speeches by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, every seat is important, and one gets the impression that they'd be happy to squeak through.
So, what's the sacrifice of a loyalist when in many seats the BJP has and will deploy imports from other parties with sacrosanct ideologies quite diametrical to its own? The thinking could be that Somaiya could be easily accommodated in the next Rajya Sabha seat that falls vacant. Despite his abrasive, ambitious political personality and beaming smile, Somaiya is a useful person for the party.
The Shiv Sena, that broke from the BJP after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, is already in the driver's seat for the Assembly polls, and has made a series of U-turns since it hitched its wagon to the BJP again, has not just scented blood but tasted it. The BJP, in its anxieties with tallies to be secured in the current polls, has given away much more than is healthy for its political future in the state.
Both have been expedient, but the BJP pays the price. The Sena — after the foxtrot of seeking the Opposition benches after the previous Assembly elections, changing its mind to get a share on the treasury benches — has been a difficult partner, and in contradistinction from being a responsible ally, wants the upper hand in Maharashtra. Almost as if it was still the same alliance that was in place till since the late 1980s.
The likely scenarios are many.
For one, the BJP has always had a better hit rate in the elections compared to the Sena, even if contested fewer seats than its ally and secured more Assembly seats. Should the BJP win more seats to the Lok Sabha this time than the Shiv Sena does, it may try to stare it down in the negotiations for the Assembly seats for contests.
Second, should the Sena do better than the BJP, which is possible unless the cadre does not ensure transfer of votes in the constituencies contested by the BJP, the equations would remain to the advantage of the regional party. It would cock a snook and turn upside down the old principle that had earlier, but for a very long time, that the BJP should engage at the national level and leave primacy in Maharashtra to the Sena.
Third, more than the Sena, the BJP has a stake in winning every seat for itself and also ensuring that the allies also get past the post in all Lok Sabha seats contested. It cannot have the luxury of taking a single chance. And not taking a single chance is manifest in the manner in which Somaiya was dropped. Simply because Somaiya had accused the Thackeray family of taking the cream from the civic coffers. That was a personal attack on the Thackerays and the BJP pandered.
In so far as the BJP is concerned, it is walking on eggshells while seeking to dance the tango with the Sena. Poonam Mahajan, a sitting MP, had to rush to the Thackeray residence to explain a 'mistake' – which it could have been – of not having Aditya Thackeray's face on her election posters. Aditya is yet to prove himself a vote-puller unlike his father in the 2014 Assembly polls but the Sena's youth wing took umbrage. As it stands, the BJP is letting the regional party call the shots.
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Updated Date: Apr 04, 2019 11:54:40 IST