Shiv Sena’s alliance with Congress to form a government in Maharashtra marks the coming together of ideological opposites, but the journey ahead is fraught with risks, particularly with a bruised BJP seeking to draw a wedge between the new allies. In a first of sorts, a delegation of Shiv Sena leaders drove the residence of Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Monday to convey their support for the boycott of Constitution Day celebrations to be held by the Modi government the next day. The visit was unusual because Sena founder Bal Thackeray, who took pride in calling himself ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’ (the emperor of Hindu hearts), had often targeted Sonia for her foreign origin and her son Rahul for being an entitled dynasty. Sonia had even expressed her strong displeasure at Pranab Mukherjee calling on the senior Thackeray at his Matoshree residence in suburban Bandra, seeking support for his candidature in the Presidential elections in 2012. Egged by the Maharashtra unit of the Congress and advised by NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, Sonia agreed to set aside her misgivings about the Sena and support Uddhav Thackeray’s bid for chief ministership to prevent a “greater evil”: the BJP assuming centre-stage a state that is the economic powerhouse of the country. The coming together of ideological opposites – Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP – has reined in the ambitions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah of planting the party flag despite falling short of the numbers.
“In Karnataka, Goa, Manipur, BJP has shown the world how to form governments by misuse of power and smearing the face of democracy. This is not Goa, this is Maharashtra. If something wrong is done here… we will remove those who have come to power through illegal means,” Sharad Pawar said. Political analysts believe the initial taste of success in halting the BJP juggernaut could lead to some populist decisions that would provide solace to the common man, particularly farmers, who faced the wrath of the weather gods. The BJP was propped up by NCP’s Ajit Pawar who revolted against his party headed by his uncle Sharad Pawar. The BJP and the Sena, which fought the last month’s Assembly polls in an alliance, secured a comfortable majority by winning 105 and 56 seats respectively. The Sena, however, broke its three-decade-long ties with the BJP after the latter declined to share the chief minister’s post.
However, the new alliance partners will have to keep a constant vigil to ensure the BJP does not create divisions in the three parties. Shiv Sena, particularly, will have to be cautious about the BJP’s attempts to fan the aggressive nationalist agenda as it makes efforts to build a Ram Temple in Ayodhya and moves onto the next agenda of Uniform Civil Code. Recently, the BJP engineered defections in both JD(S) and Congress in Karnataka to topple Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy government in July and facilitated the return of B S Yediyurappa at the helm of the state affairs. The BJP is also planning an ‘Operation Lotus’ in Madhya Pradesh, where the Congress government has a thin majority.