WHY BJP-SHIV SENA’S UNEASY ALLIANCE IS NOW JUST AN ADJUSTMENT

The article originally appeared on India Today.

They were fellows for decades. They had similar ideological planks of nationalism and Hindutva to unite them. But the growing bickering saw them breaking their 25-year old alliance in September 2014, a month before the Maharashtra assembly polls in October 2014. Elections made BJP the single largest party in Maharashtra and thus Shiv Sena’s senior partner, a first in state politics. Shiv Sena happened to be BJP’s big brother in state politics before it.

Though Shiv Sena came back to the alliance fold again, developments since then clearly tell us that it has always been an uneasy alliance with the party, its leaders and cadre taking on both, the Devendra Fadnavis government and the BJP led central government. Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamana regularly comes up with editorials slamming the BJP. Threatening to break alliance even on slightest of pretext has become a routine. Both allies fought the recently held Mumbai civic polls (BMC) separately, where again, they were ruling partners for many years.

How strained the relation between the allies has become can be gauged from words of Manohar Joshi, former Maharashtra CM and veteran Shiv Sena leader. In an interview published today, Joshi said that Shiv Sena was no longer in an alliance with the BJP. Rather, it was just an adjustment. And if we scan through the developments of even just last two months, we can see the contradictions of BJP-Sena alliance getting deeper with Sena slamming the BJP on almost every other issue.

AMARNATH YATRA ATTACK

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray slammed the BJP led central government for terror attack on a bus of Amarnath Yarta pilgrims that left seven killled and in a satirical comment said that the so-called Gau Rakshaks (or cow vigilantes) should be sent there to fight terrorists.

AIR INDIA DISINVESTMENT

Drawing a Kashmir parallel, Shiv Sena criticised the decision saying tomorrow the government may proceed to sell Kashmir citing the huge security cost involved. Shiv Sena termed Air India, national carrier, India’s icon and pride.

FARMERS’ PROTESTS AND FARM LOAN WAIVER

Shiv Sena has supported farm protests demanding total farm loan waiver. When the Fadnavis government announced last month its farm loan waiver scheme, Shiv Sena took credit saying the pressure put by it worked but at the same time ratcheted up its attack demanding a total waiver.

The Rs. 34000 crore farm waiver announced by the Fadnavis government is aimed at the most needy small and marginal farmers with loan amount up to Rs. 1.5 lakh. The debt waiver covers 40 lakh farmers completely but other 49 lakh farmers who have higher debt have been left out of its ambit beyond the cap of Rs. 1.5 lakh.

But Uddhav Thackeray has been demanding a blanket farm loan waiver without any condition and has vowed to raise the issue till every farmer become debt free and as recently as July 10, Shiv Sena organized protests in Maharashtra districts to reiterate its demand for the blanket waiver.

KASHMIR UNREST

Shiv Sena has blamed the Centre and the BJP-PDP alliance government in Jammu & Kashmir for letting the situation spiral out of control and has demanded imposition of President Rule. Blaming J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti for making reckless statements while the state is burning, Shiv Sena says it is sad the BJP still backs her.

DEVENDRA FANDAVIS’ ASSERTION ON MID-TERM POLLS

First it was Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis. Then it was BJP President Amit Shah. Last month, they both issued a veiled warning to Shiv Sena saying that the BJP was prepared for mid-term polls if the same was ‘imposed upon them’.

Shiv Sena hit back saying BJP might care for mid-term polls, Shiv Sena’s priorities of the moment were issues like Kashmir and Darjeeling.

©SantoshChaubey

FINAL WORD IS OUT: BJP IS SHIV SENA’S BIG BROTHER IN MAHARASHTRA POLITICS

The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is bit modified and extended.

First the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, then the 2014 Maharashtra assembly polls and now the Maharashtra civic polls, they are point to this – that the ‘who is the big brother in Shiv Sena-BJP alliance in Maharastra’ story that began with the Maharashtra assembly polls in October 2014, has seen its climax in place now and we can say the BJP is going to be the ultimate big brother in a BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in Maharashtra, if indeed the alliance continues.

The Shiv Sena-BJP alliance has ruled India’s richest civic body Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for the last 20 years but both parties were contesting these Maharashtra civic polls separately. Their electoral rivalry saw both parties placing bitter allegations and using choices of words to paint each other in a negative light.

But in the end, the BJP has emerged as the clear winner, not only in the BMC where it is neck to neck with Shiv Sena in the final tally but in the overall tally of the Maharashtra civic polls. The BJP has won 471 seats in all 10 municipal corporations where polls were held, gaining majority in 8 out of 10. It is over two fold jump from BJP’s tally of 205 in 2012 Maharashtra civic polls.

And it is stellar in the BMC, from 31 in 2012 to 82 in 2017.

As per the information available so far as the counting is still on in some places, while Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) are the biggest losers, crashing down from 529 seats in 2012 from 207 seats in 2012, Shiv Sena, too, has been given a rough treatment by the voters. The party had got 227 seats in the 2012 Maharashtra civic polls which stands at 215 now. And though it has claimed that the BJP has not gone up in the BMC at Shiv Sena’s expense, its marginal rise, from 75 seats in 2012 to 84 in 2017, is certainly not a consolation when seen in the context of the huge gains made by the BJP. Now, if the Shiv Sena has to continue with its run in the BMC, it will have to go with the BJP, who claims support of four independents, to cross the majority mark of 114 in 227 members strong BMC. And it will certainly be on BJP’s terms now.

But the Shiv Sena setback story had begun much before.

THE 2014 SCRIPT REPEATED

The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance for the Maharashtra civic polls got the same fate, in the same manner, as it had happened before the 2014 assembly polls. Based on its performance in the Lok Sabha and assembly polls in Maharashtra, the BJP was demanding 114 seats to contest out of BMC’s 227 seats and was not ready to go down below 105 seats. The Shiv Sena, citing 2012 BMC results, when the Shiv Sena had won 75 seats, contesting on 135 seats, more than double of the BJP’s score of 31 wins, refused to compromise. The BJP then had contested on 63 seats. The Shiv Sena didn’t accept the BJP’s demand and instead chose to split the alliance that was in place since 1997.

THE 2014 FIASCO

2014 saw the Shiv Sena splitting its decades old alliance with the BJP to save its ‘big brother’ status and then rejoining the BJP in a humiliating setback. Out of NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena, the biggest setback went to Shiv Sena. It was the biggest loser in spite of registering growth, in seats and in vote share.

For just 5 seats, the Shiv Sena lost the ‘big brother’ or senior ally tag in Maharashtra, and that too, by a huge margin. Though it was the second largest party in Maharashtra assembly, their 63 seats were nowhere near to the BJP’s 122 seats, given the fact that the BJP had been the junior partner of the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and was ready to compromise even during the last assembly polls in October 2014, agreeing to contest on lesser number of seats than the Shiv Sena in the failed seat-sharing talks. The BJP, with 15 assembly constituencies, had won more seats even in Mumbai than the Shiv Sena’s 14 seats.

The BJP had performed exceedingly well in the Lok Sabha elections cornering maximum number of Lok Sabha seats from Maharashtra that sends 48 members to the parliament and therefore its demand didn’t seem misplaced. In 2014 the LS polls, the BJP had won 23 seats with 27% vote share while the Shiv Sena had 18 seats with 21% vote share. It was a considerable improvement for both. The BJP had taken up its tally from 9 LS seats and 19% vote share in 2009 to 23 seats in 2014. The Shiv Sena also did very well taking up its tally from 10 seats to 18 seats with 17% vote share in 2009.

But the Shiv Sena’s performance was not at par with its junior ally of the past, when seen in comparison with the BJP’s rising graph in the state. Even in the perceived citadel of the Shiv Sena, in Mumbai, the BJP, with 15 assembly constituencies, won more seats that the Shiv Sena’s 14 in the 2014 assembly polls. In 2009 assembly polls, the junior partner of the alliance had won two seats more (46) than the Shiv Sena’s 44 seats. And when it simply outperformed everyone in the Lok Sabha polls registering 8% increase in vote share and over 150% increase in seats, it was right to expect for more.

The BJP had a symbolic edge over the Shiv Sena with 2009 assembly election results but the 2014 LS polls outcome placed it much ahead of all others, including the Shiv Sena. The Shiv Sena had to realize it and should have appreciated when the BJP didn’t ask for sky-high price for its electoral edge. But alleging the BJP of the ‘big brother’ attitude, the Shiv Sena refused to budge and the seat-sharing talks and thus the alliance collapsed.

THE HUMILIATING RETURN

The BJP went on to form the government in Maharashtra in 2014, even if it was 23 seats short of the majority mark in the 288-member strong Maharashtra assembly. The NCP offer of unconditional outside support had taken whatever sheen the Shiv Sena was left with in a post-election scenario of the hung assembly.

In the 2014 assembly polls, the BJP won more than what the Shiv Sena was offering, 119 seats. Had it been in the alliance, even if with 5 more seats, BJP would not have been able to win so many seats. What BJP was demanding was modest. What Shiv Sena’s refusal gave it was grand. And what Shiv Sena lost was grander, costing it the ‘senior alliance partner’ position, and the leverage in the national politics.

So much so, that in order to remain relevant in Maharashtra politics, the Shiv Sena had to compromise and join the Devendra Fadnavis government in December 2014. But the political flow since then shows their hearts could never meet. Even if it rejoined the alliance, the Shiv Sena always acted like a squabbling partner, always sparring in public with its pet line that ‘the BJP should not take the Shiv Sena’s support for granted’ and its ministers in the alliance government were always ready to submit their resignations. It shows the Shiv Sena could never make itself comfortable with the fact that it is now the BJP that will dictate the terms. Even today, a day that proved the meteoric rise of the BJP in Maharashtra politics, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray went on to claim that not just the next Mumbai mayor but even the next Maharashtra chief minister will be from the Shiv Sena.

©SantoshChaubey

SHIV SENA AND BJP SHOULD SEPARATE NOW

The move which the BJP sees as a masterstroke – the move which threatens prime minister Narendra Modi’s life as he said in an emotional speech – the move behind which the whole BJP government stands united and is trying every possible measure to make it a success – the move for which the whole nation has stood painstakingly (or painfully) in queues day in and day out – the BJP’s ally and its partner in the Maharashtra government, the Shiv Sena, is seen standing with Mamata Banerjee opposing that very move – against that masterstroke and is going to corner the government on the demonetization issue along with the larger opposition.

It is when Congress, Left and Arvind Kejriwal decided not to join the anti-demonetization march to the Rashtrapati Bhavan by Mamata Banerjee on the issue.

The Shiv Sena has criticised the Narendra Modi government on withdrawing Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes. Its 21 parliamentarians marched along with the TMC’s 44 MPs and others including Omar Abdullah and AAP’s Bhagwant Mann. The Shiv Sena says demonetization has gone beyond the politics of government and its rivals and the party believes that this step is anti-people and has trapped the common man’s life in a tight spot.

To continue..

©SantoshChaubey

MAHARASHTRA ASSEMBLY ELECTION 2014: WHY SHIV SENA IS THE BIGGEST LOSER

Out of NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena, the biggest setback goes to Shiv Sena. It is the biggest loser in spite of registering growth, in seats and in vote share.

Many in the party would be rightly thinking, that just for 5 seats, they lost the ‘senior ally’ in Maharashtra tag, and that too, by a huge margin. Yes, they are the second largest party in Maharashtra assembly but their 63 seats are nowhere near to BJP’s 122 seats, given the fact that BJP had been the junior partner of Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and was ready to do so even this time, agreeing to contest on lesser number of seats than Shiv Sena in the failed seat-sharing talks.

And BJP had reasons and rights to ask for so, because it was not too outrageous a demand. It had performed exceedingly well in the Lok Sabha elections cornering maximum number of Lok Sabha seats from Maharashtra that sends 48 members to the parliament.

In 2014 LS polls, BJP had won 23 seats with 27% vote share while Shiv Sena had 18 seats with 21% vote share. It was a considerable improvement for both. BJP had taken up its tally from 9 LS seats and 19% vote share in 2009 to 23 seats in 2014. Shiv Sena also did very well taking up its tally from 10 seats to 18 seats with 17% vote share in 2009.

But Shiv Sena’s performance was not at par with its junior ally of the past, when seen in comparison with BJP’s rising graph in the state, when it had to be surpassing what BJP achieved. Even in 2009 assembly polls, the junior partner of the alliance had won two seats more (46) than Shiv Sena’s 44 seats. And when it simply outperformed everyone in the Lok Sabha polls registering 8% increase in vote share and over 150% increase in seats, it was right to expect for more.

BJP had a symbolic edge over Shiv Sena with 2009 assembly election results but the 2014 LS polls outcome placed it much ahead of all others, including Shiv Sena. Shiv Sena had to realize it and should have appreciated when BJP didn’t ask for sky-high price for its electoral edge.

But, their ego had to blind them all. Alleging BJP of the ‘big brother’ attitude, they tried to act ‘bigger brother’ and the talks collapsed.

This was when BJP had Narendra Modi and the Modi Factor advantage as well, that drove home a clear majority to a non-Congress party for the first time in electoral history. Probably, Shiv Sena strategists had become so convinced of the hypothesis that Modi Wave had receded based on the bye-election outcomes, that saw that all the ‘green’ was going to adore them only. But Maharashtra and Haryana (in Haryana, BJP got clear majority and is going to form the government there, from 4 seats in 2009 to clear majority in 2014) tell Modi Wave is still very much here.

It was for Modi Wave only, that BJP, despite not having as strong an organizational structure in whole Maharashtra as Shiv Sena had, could outperform so brilliantly its ‘senior partner’ from the recent past.

So brilliantly, that Shiv Sena is now slated to become BJP’s junior partner in Maharashtra.

So brilliantly, that BJP is now dictating the terms, even if it is 23 seats short of the majority mark. The NCP offer of unconditional outside support has taken whatever sheen Shiv Sena was left with in a post-election scenario of hung assembly.

BJP won more than what Shiv Sena was offering, 119 seats. Had it been in the alliance, even if with 5 more seats, BJP would not have been able to win so many seats. What BJP was demanding was modest. What Shiv Sena’s arrogance gave it was grand. And what Shiv Sena lost was grander, costing it the ‘senior alliance partner’ position, and the leverage in the national politics.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

AS EXPECTED, MAHARASHTRA’S EXISTING POLITICAL ALLIANCES ARE OVER (FOR NOW)

All this was expected, waiting to happen, and as the time was running out, today was the day, when it had to happen, as the last day of filing nominations for the October 15 Maharashtra assembly election is just on the day after tomorrow, on September 27, a day when prime minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly during his much talked about official America trip.

The four major political parties of Maharashtra, Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Shiv Sena and Bhartiya Janata Party, are going to contest the upcoming assembly polls separately (as of now).

We had two pressers today, by the BJP and the NCP, announcing the split. Representatives of both the parties said they tried hard to save the alliance. Likewise was the reaction from their ’till the last moment’ alliance partners.

The Mahayuti is no longer existent (as of now). The Congress-NCP Combine had its life till today.

Anyway, there is nothing much to read into that. After Congress’ humiliating loss and miserable strength in the Lok Sabha elections and the BJP’s stupendous (and unexpectedly overwhelming) show, it was written all over.

Sharad Pawar had issued warning to its senior partner immediately after the May 16 General Elections results that Congress needed to accept the reality and had to give more space to the NCP now. Though the BJP did not issue such explicit warnings, the messages and the feelers were always sent out. Congress’ two Lok Sabha seats from Maharashtra were half of the NCP’s four while the BJP was five seats ahead of Shiv Sena’s 18 MPs. Also, nationally, the party had won majority on its own.

It was also that there were emphatic voices in all the camps against breaking the alliances. The issue being dragged for so long tells us. While writing this, Congress is reacting on with its presser being addressed by the Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan while Shiv Sena is expected to come with its formal response tomorrow.

There are already talks of further alliances and deals. Political theories and hypotheses are going to be the high talking points. But that will be tomorrow onwards (including the possibilities of reversals, if any!).

There were many who, in all the four political outfits, were thinking to test the waters separately after long periods of alliances. NCP-Congress alliance was 15 years old while Shiv Sena-BJP combine has had history of a quarter of Century with it.

Fighting polls together for so many years kept them away from assessing their power and their influence separately on their constituencies across the state. It was hard to say who wielded what influence across the state. It had become difficult for them to assess their situation in terms of real political growth; in terms of gaining and expanding the political ground.

Traditionally, as Congress and Shiv Sena were the senior partners of their respective alliances and had larger presence and a long history in the state, the assessment was not so imperative for them. But it could never have been so with the NCP and the BJP.

Though, the NCP was formed from the breakaway faction of Maharashtra Congress by Sharad Pawar, a major political figure in the state, its beginning was not smooth and the party was forced to join hands with Congress in the very first year, when the Combine had its first government in 1999. The Shiv Sena-BJP Combine has failed to form the government after 1995.

The status quo was maintainable as long as the status remained more or less unchanged – circumstances predicting continuation of the Congress-NCP government.

That was not so this time. Every survey predicted overwhelming victory for the Shiv Sena-BJP combine quoting the Modi Wave being the major factor after BJP emerging with more seats and an impressive performance in the state. The natural corollary to it was the doomed fate for Congress, an electoral rout, like it had in the Lok Sabha elections. So, the senior partners were no longer in the positions to claim their political seniority in the state.

And these equations gave the BJP and the NCP the leveraging power to bargain to have more seats to contest in the elections as well as the aspirations to go solo to assess and realize their own political ground.

As the bargaining could not come with the results expected, the voices advocating the ‘going solo’ mantra grew more and more demanding, and it ultimately got the upper hand today when the BJP and the NCP, one after the other, announced to walk out of their respective coalitions.

So, it’s an open political sky and a free electoral battleground in Maharashtra tomorrow onwards. And it has the potential of throwing in some U-turns.

It’s going to be interesting, for the Pundits, and for the observers.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/