The Shiv Sena, Bharatiya Janata Party and the constant confusion surrounding their fateful alliance in Maharashtra is in news again.
Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray recently attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the ongoing Punjab National Bank fraud case and said that the Rs 11,400-crore scam at the PNB had pushed the controversy surrounding the purchase of Rafale fighter jets to the backburner.
"Bigwigs indulge in corruption and leave the country. However, poor farmers, who have taken small loans but are unable to repay them, are forced to end their lives. Until this contrast ends, fixing nets in Mantralaya (to prevent suicides) will not solve the issue. How were loans worth thousands of crores given?" PTI quoted Uddhav as saying.
He asked how it was possible for some people to siphon off thousands of crores of rupees in the past two-three years when, during demonetisation, ordinary people were asked several questions when they went to their banks to withdraw cash. "Scams are coming out in the open one after the other. Due to this issue (the Punjab National Bank scam), the Rafale scam has been put on the backburner," Uddhav reportedly said. He was addressing the media after launching a book by Sena MLC Neelam Gorhe, who completed 20 years in the party.
The remarks by Uddhav are the latest among the recent salvos fired by the Sena against the ruling party. The Sena chief has forever been critical of the Centre's policies towards Maharashtra and has also cribbed that it has not been given adequate representation in the Union Cabinet.
The Sena's attacks on Modi's central policies and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis have become more frequent and often delivered in scathing editorials in its mouthpiece Saamna. After a fractious campaign during the Assembly election, Shiv Sena decided to join the BJP-led Fadnavis government in Maharashtra. Allies since the early 90s, Sena-BJP relations hit a low point ever since the latter emerged as number one party in Maharashtra post the 2014 state Assembly election.
Interestingly, there is still no clarity over their alliance in Maharashtra.
Shiv Sena also questioned the BJP over the absence of Uddhav from the recent 'Magnetic Maharashtra' event in Mumbai, asking whether it was due to "protocol issues" or the "politics of exclusion". "This is not the first time that it has happened. During the bhoomipujan of the Ambedkar memorial in October 2015 and later, ahead of the foundation stone laying ceremony of Shivaji memorial, the BJP played petty politics," Neelam Gorhe, Sena spokesperson, was quoted as saying by PTI.
"If there were protocol issues as is being claimed, it is of no consequence. Did the BJP not have protocol issues when Nirav Modi was clicking pictures with Modi at Davos? Or is the BJP simply playing politics of exclusion," she questioned.
She pointed out that there was no communication between the BJP and its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) allies currently.
While leaders from both the parties are busy slinging mud at each other, quite publicly, reports have hinted that the two reluctant allies are not really "keen" on breaking the alliance. Firstpost reported that the NDA leaders held meetings with Sena leaders in Mumbai, Aurangabad and Delhi. Further, the party has also offered its partner in the state the chance to contest between 140 and 144 seats seats in the Assembly polls slated for 2019.
The so-called olive branch could have been extended by NDA because off late the BJP has run into trouble with its other allies in the country — Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam Party in Andhra and the Akalis in Punjab. The Sena unilaterally and unequivocally decided to end the coalition and go it alone in the 2019 Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in January, but its leaders have been making various statements along those lines throughout the past year.
Public criticism of the state government — of which the Sena is a member — and jabs at the Modi government at the Centre notwithstanding, there appears to be a realisation in the BJP and Shiv Sena camps that the parties need each other in the upcoming elections.
Firstpost also reported that there have been three top secret meetings between members of the two parties since November 2017.
"Highly-placed BJP sources confirmed to Firstpost that the the plan to restore the coalition came about in October 2017, leading to the meetings between the parties. The BJP committee for the first meeting included Fadnavis, Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil and Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar. Other ministers like Vinod Tawde and Pankaja Munde, and former minister Eknath Khadse have reportedly been kept out of these meetings. Representing the Shiv Sena were Uddhav's personal assistant and party secretary Milind Narvekar, Rajya Sabha MP Anil Desai and Industry Minister Subhash Desai. Sena MP and spokesperson Sanjay Raut has been excluded for the time being."
Claims to quit the alliance has been made so many times that even leaders have stopped believing in it. "Uddhav saheb has said the same thing at least thrice in the last one year. There is nothing new in his criticism of the BJP government and Modiji. We are not surprised by his announcement," senior BJP leader and spokesperson Madhav Bhandari was quoted as saying by Livemint after the January announcement.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Feb 23, 2018 14:46 PM