If the Shiv Sena were to refuse to go along with the BJP’s choice for the Rashtrapati Bhavan, it risks the plausible mid-term elections to the Maharashtra State Legislature. For, not voting for Ram Nath Kovind on any pretext would amount to breaking up the already fraught relationship with the BJP.
Even a couple of days prior to Amit Shah calling on Uddhav Thackeray at his residence to discuss the presidential elections, the Maharashtra chief minister had spoken of mid-term elections as something that would favour the BJP, obviously at the cost of Sena’s 63 seats. It has to be noted that BJP does not speak of further weakening of Congress or NCP.
No doubt the Sena has been telling its cadre to be ready for a snap poll, but so far, apart from being a nagging partner in a bad marriage of convenience with the BJP, had done precious little to take any step. Apparently, it is unsure and hoped that a bargain on support to BJP’s nominee would strengthen its position in the alliance.
BJP does not, in the arithmetic as has now developed, need Sena’s support for the NDA, with Telangana Rashtra Samiti, AIADMK, and the YSR Congress pledging support, has improved its chances. The electoral college vote strength has improved from its earlier 48.93 percent of the total to 57.85 percent.
Shiv Sena is the third largest component in the vote shares, next to Telugu Desham, with a contribution of 2.34 percent. TDP’s share is 2.82 percent. If Sena’s votes don’t go into the ballot box in support of Kovind but remain neutral, the candidate’s chances do not dim one whit. Kovind can edge past any Opposition nominee.
Unless the BJP, in its afterglow of securing a victory for its candidate, turns magnanimous and decides to overlook the Sena decision not to support Kovind’s candidature. It has already said that his choice was on the strength of his Dalit caste which can only help build vote banks, not nation-building.
The Shiv Sena leadership is to meet sometime later today to weigh its options but as its half-a-century's history has revealed, it is the chief, earlier the late Bal Thackeray, and now Uddhav Thackeray, who takes the call. Others merely ratify it. A beleaguered but ambivalent Sena is unlikely to marshal any gumption for dissent.
If the Sena weighs in with support for the Opposition candidate, then any rationale for remaining in the NDA at the Centre or in a post-poll partnership with the BJP in Maharashtra just ceases to exist. In that case, Narendra Modi, who likes to serve his revenge cold, may even act quicker and put the Sena on the mat in a mid-term poll.
Sena has got away with supporting Pratibha Patil, a Congress candidate, on the basis of her being a Maharashtrian, and Pranab Mukherjee because he called at Matoshree seeking support, meant it has broken ranks twice in the past. It would be hard to expect Modi to swallow any opposition from Sena to Kovind’s candidature.
Updated Date: Jun 20, 2017 15:49 PM