Will the gift of a grand Thackeray memorial bring Sena back to BJP?

Rohit Chandavarkar
Monday, 28 January 2019

Last year the Sena exhibited tremendous aggression at its national convention in Mumbai’s Goregaon announcing that the party henceforth will have no pre-poll alliance with BJP.  All that suddenly seems like distant forgettable past as Maharashtra Chief Minister achieved perfect timing in announcing a Rs.100 crore government grant for Balasaheb Thackeray Memorial and in addition handed over the Mayor bungalow and the entire plot of land where stands to the Shiv Sena leadership, making it an irresistible gift which might just change the relationship drastically!

Party finds itself ignoring key issues and seems busy only with politics of emotions

As winter slowly makes way for spring, in Maharashtra’s political capital, one witnesses a thaw in the relations between Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Some warmth shown from both sides is quite evidently seen this week. This comes after both parties being at loggerheads over municipal and district council polls in Maharashtra over the past 18 to 24 months. There is now new bonhomie seen between the chiefs from both sides. The occasion last week was the ceremony to hand over by Mumbai Municipal Corporation of Mumbai’s iconic mayor bungalow to the Shiv Sena for building a grand memorial of party’s founder Balasaheb Thackeray.

The timing of this ceremony was highly indicative of what is happening between these two alliance partners currently. Balasaheb Thackeray passed away in November 2012. The foundation stone laying ceremony took place on 23rd January 2019 over six years after his death. Its happened just weeks ahead of the 2019 general election campaign. Its very clear and obvious that Shiv Sena wants to use this opportunity to once again rake up memories of its departed leader ahead of the election season and play politics of emotions to make the masses vote for them!

Last year the Sena exhibited tremendous aggression at its national convention in Mumbai announcing that the party henceforth will have no pre-poll alliance with any other party. In an obvious hint to the BJP, leaders of Shiv Sena counted incidents where they were humiliated by the BJP in Mumbai and various local self-government elections in the state and the party passed a resolution that it would make no alliance with the BJP!

All that suddenly seems like distant past as Maharashtra Chief Minister achieved perfect timing in announcing a Rs.100 crore government grant for Balasaheb Thackeray Memorial and in addition handed over the Mayor bungalow and the entire plot of land where stands to the Shiv Sena at a ceremony on Wednesday. The bungalow and the land in Mumbai’s posh Shivaji Park is estimated to be worth Rs.2000 crore according to real estate experts! This obviously is seen as BJP’s ultimate gift to the Shiv Sena ahead of the crucial seat sharing talks between both parties.

The voters of Maharashtra will however once again figure out that the rhetoric pitched from stages of various rallies is only a temporary venting of emotions and Shiv Sena may just change its mind on making or breaking alliances as time passes. The voters are also witnessing of late the party is focusing too much on emotive issues such as those related to temples and memorials, instead of delivering good governance in the Mumbai Municipal Corporation where it is in power. Life in Mumbai is becoming unbearable for the tax paying citizens because of growing slums, pot holes ridden roads and general breakdown of civic amenities but the Sena is seen ignoring all that and rushing to Varanasi to talks about national political issues.

An additional input indicates that the BJP has also convinced the Sena in meetings held behind closed doors that in case the Sena decides to contest alone, it will approach all its unhappy MLAs and Councillors for their possible defections from the Sena to  BJP. Both sides are increasingly sensing the compulsion of coming together for a pre-poll alliance in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and it now seems almost certain that they will agree on some seat sharing formula.

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