Maharashtra drought situation may push Shiv Sena further in opposition space

Rohit Chandavarkar
Friday, 26 October 2018

Shiv Sena is sensing that in many parts of Maharashtra, farmers are facing agrarian crisis because of either water scarcity or other issues. The party wants to now pretend to be the opposition so that it can capitalise on this resentment among the voters. So one sees Uddhav Thackeray suddenly raising the issue of Ram Mandir to target the BJP. The Sena is watching the drought situation carefully. If the drought situation is too severe, the Sena might want to quit from the government just ahead of the 2019 polls and fight as an opposition party.

Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray has been speaking against the Central government in a very loud voice ever since he realised that the BJP was trying to push his party aside in the Mumbai Municipal polls of 2017. 

Uddhav has not let one opportunity go to target the BJP and indirectly even Prime Minister Modi. 

This stance has seen renewed vigour as Uddhav toured parts of Marathwada and sensed that the farmers in that region are angry over several issues.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced last week that the State is now facing water scarcity in as many as 200 tehsils of the 400 odd tehsils. 

So, almost half of Maharashtra is now on the verge of a severe drought situation. It’s a scary picture. Earlier this year, the Government of India had issued a report, which described this year’s water situation as alarming, and said that India might be facing the worst ever water scarcity crisis in the coming years.

In Marathwada, the conflict over water is going to be harsh this year, as politicians from North Maharashtra have opposed releasing the water of Godavari river towards Jayakwadi dam. The scarcity situation in Marathwada this year is going to be acute.

Uddhav Thackeray visited Latur district last week and held many rallies there. Sensing that the farmers are unhappy even over the way loan waiver was handled by the government agencies and banks, Thackeray targeted the BJP in every rally.

Chief Minister Fadnavis now would be a worried man. In the last phase of bypolls in Maharashtra when BJP lost the Bhandara-Gondia seat, which it had won with a large margin in 2014 polls, CM Fadnavis said that this defeat was mainly because of the anger among people over drought situation that prevailed in the district since last December. 

Now, if there is similar water scarcity sensed in more than 200 tehsils of Maharashtra, it would perhaps spell political disaster for the BJP in the coming election season. 

The restlessness among farmers is now visible in many parts of the State and it might spill out on the roads if the situation worsens in coming months. Sensing this, the Sena is now likely to move more towards the opposition space and distance itself from the BJP.

The big question on everybody’s minds is, will the Sena get into a pre-poll alliance with the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls? 

Till now, the Sena has kept that unclear and has followed a wait-and-watch policy. The Sena might consider two factors before finally making up its mind. 

Firstly, the results of upcoming assembly polls in some large states of India, which will give us a sense of which way the political winds are blowing, and secondly the intensity of the drought situation in Maharashtra in the coming months. 

If the drought is too severe, the Sena might just want to quit from the government just ahead of the 2019 polls and fight as an opposition party.

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