Shiv Sena

Can Shiv Sena Go It Alone?

English

The Shiv Sena, the party sulking for last almost four years, has decided to field its two candidates for the Nashik and Raigad-Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg local authorities constituencies for the Maharashtra Legislative Council elections. It effectively reinforces its stand to have no truck with Bharatiya Janata Party, its longtime ally and presently its bête noire. The election is scheduled to be held next month. A total of six local authorities constituencies would go to polls on May 21.
The politics in Maharashtra for the last few days has been marked by the overtures by BJP to form an alliance with Shiv Sena.Uddhav Thackeray, the executive president of Shiv Sena, announced earlier this year that the party would contest all future elections alone. The announcement was the culmination of a long drawn verbal duel between the two saffron parties. Ever since BJP rode to power, successively at the centre and in state, it rubbed its long time ally wrong way. In its zeal to acquire power on its own, BJP behaved with an aggressive high handedness that offended the party that have endured many a tempests together in over three-decade long journey.
Now the time has come for Shiv Sena to pay in the same coin. Its latest move is viewed as a snub to the BJP’s overtures. The Sena has announced Narendra Darade and Rajeev Sable for Nashik and Raigad-Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg constituencies, respectively as its candidates.The question is – can Shiv Sena maintain the momentum and pay the price of fighting its battles alone. The party may claim that it has a statewide presence but in reality, it is clustered in Mumbai, Konkan and to an extent Paschim (Western) Maharashtra area. Its support mainly from the urban areas. A large base of cadre has migrated first to the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and now to BJP.
On the part of BJP, it indulged itself in many misadventures post-2014. Many of those misadventures actually paid dividends. However, the sense of realpolitik came soon and it started looking for mending fences with Shiv Sena. The BJP leaders including Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar and others have made no bones about their willingness to form an alliance with Shiv Sena. Even though Shiv Sena has resolutely said time and again that it will go alone, no one in political circles believed it. Shiv Sena clinging to power both in Centre as well as in state was seen as its fallibility.
uddhav thackeray devendra fadnavisIn fact BJP wants an alliance not only for this election to Legislative Council but also for next Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. Shiv Sena leadership has not only neglected those overtures, but discarded them out rightly. However, the changing dynamics of Maharashtra politics may force the party to have rethink of its steadfast and adamant stand.
The Congress and NCP that fought alone in last assembly election, against each other and against BJP as well as Shiv Sena also, are now coming closer. They have given enough signals that they may jump in the arena next time as one entity even at the national level. Congress leadership in the form of Rahul Gandhi and NCP (Sharad Pawar) have held meetings and deliberated on possible alliance. Since BJP has acquired many incomers from these parties. it may face no problem in facing the onslaught of combined strength of these parties. Moreover, it also has cadre that is already buoyed by successive victories of BJP in all levels of election. Shiv Sena can’t claim this type of comfort.
Moreover, CM Fadnavis has very shrewdly given prominence to MNS leader Raj Thackeray who is seen reviving his party’s lost fortune. By attacking Narendra Modi and Fadnavis as well, Raj Thackeray has tried to occupy opposition space that has been laying vacant due to the lackluster performance by Congress and NCP as opposition parties. Shiv Sena tried to play double game by being in power and at the same time being an opposition party. However, this plan did not work out very well. this was clear by its underperformance in elections after elections. So much so that it was humiliated in its own citadel Mumbai during the municipal election.
Shiv Sena’s strategy seems to rely on capitalizing on anti-incumbency factor and the anger over betrayal (by BJP). However, this anti-incumbency thing is a very dicey preposition – except for media and politically enthused social media circles, this factor has not been especially evident anywhere in the state. Again, this factor will benefit, if at all, to Congress NCP and not Shiv Sena because it was an equal partner in whatever the present government did or did not.
In such a scenario, Shiv Sena’s muscle flexing may actually backfire on it. The move may alienate it’s sympathizers and may erode of its voter base. For a solid display and exhibition of political strength, it may be a right move but for a long term gain and goodwill it may prove counterproductive.

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