Mohan Bhagwat for President: Shiv Sena's choice reeks of mischief, but may force BJP to seek options
Shiv Sena's choice of Mohan Bhagwat for the President of India post is a clever ploy to tease the BJP, one the party has engaged in ever since it ended up as the second fiddle in the Maharashtra Assembly Election of 2014
Suddenly, a major and loud voice from the Shiv Sena has thrown up the name of Mohan Bhagwat, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief as its possible nominee to contest the election to the post of President of India. To the party, Mohan Bhagwat is a "good candidate" to make India "a Hindu rashtra". But the decision if he should be or not would be "taken by Uddhav Thackeray", the Sena chief.
The Sena can’t be serious. Months ago, it had found Pranab Mukherjee good for a second term. It only seems to have thrown a googly at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with which it has an extremely cantankerous and fidgety relationship especially because of the power-sharing arrangement in Maharashtra. Sena isn’t normally keen on politics in Delhi, and that's why it had accepted a free run by BJP there and ditto for itself in the state.
Mohan Bhagwat in all probability likes to be what he is now, happy with nudging the BJP in the direction it wants to go than to vacate his seat in Nagpur and occupy the palace on the ridge in New Delhi. Once he or any RSS chief moves into a constitutional position, his worth is drastically reduced. Constitutionalism would come in the way of the relationship. Mohan Bhagwat would be cramped for the style.
But the Sena spokesperson, Sanjay Raut, who is also the heavy-fisted editor and editorial writer of the party’s mouthpiece, the Saamana, has apparently argued his case with a certain deftness. If a temple priest in ochre robes, though elected five times to the Parliament could be sent to run a major state as chief minister, why not the top RSS man for the top constitutional job?
If Yogi Adityanath could move from Gorakhpur to Lucknow via Delhi, why not Mohan Bhagwat straight from Nagpur to the Rashtrapati Bhawan? It is a good logic but something that would raise the hackles of other members of the National Democratic Alliance. Sena itself is a member and is now keen on stirring some mischief. Not a bad play, that, quite amusing too, and imagine the BJP declining to accept its own mentor!
Having said that, the Sena has stipulated some conditions. If the BJP had a choice contrary to the one which Raut has suggested, then the leading party of the alliance would need to visit Uddhav Thackeray at his home and ask for the votes. Pranab Mukherjee had telephoned Uddhav’s father, Bal Thackeray in 2012 seeking Sena support. It wants the BJP to show up at its door and ask for whatever votes it can provide from its share in the electoral college.
The surprise is that Raut had found Mukherjee to be the "best President" and said in October last year that the incumbent deserved a second term though he was a Congressman. Mukherjee “has shown that he is a capable and a non-controversial President, who is well-versed in national and international affairs." At that time, too, there was a proviso: Uddhav Thackeray would take the final call.
When Pratibha Patil of the Congress wanted Shiv Sena’s support, she sought it and got it. The Sena broke ranks with its coalition partners and backed her because she was from Maharashtra, and a Maharashtrian, and it was a matter of pride for him than politics. This time, it is altogether different, and perhaps Uddhav wants Narendra Modi to come calling to his Bandra residence. Or, so, hopes Raut in this shadow boxing game he has initiated now.
From the time the two parties broke off to contest the elections in Maharashtra against each other, and the Sena ended up as the second fiddle, it has been trying every trick to tease the BJP. It got on the Opposition bandwagon on the issue of loan waivers for the farmers, and with the same constituents — Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress — worked out deals to rule some zilla parishads.
This running with the rabbits and hunting with the hounds has unsettled BJP enough to think of ways to deal with new options. Recently the core committee of the BJP in Maharashtra even let out that if the Sena continued in its ways of being in the government and playing the opposition, it may have to opt for midterm polls. Earlier, the BJP had spoken of finding ways to sustain itself for the remaining term, indicating overt or covert support from other parties.
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