A Chinese proverb says, ‘Friend turned foe is much worse than an unknown foe’, and this can be seen playing out in Maharashtra’s politics right now.
As the winter session of Maharashtra assembly kicked off in Nagpur on Monday, Maharashtra saw a very unusual picture, two political parties who have been alliance partners for over 30 years at local municipal, state assembly and parliament level, now suddenly at loggerheads with each other. BJP and Shiv Sena who have been in the oldest political alliance in the history of India, are now rivals wanting to score over each other in the state assembly.
Shiv Sena, as the member with largest amount of MLAs in the ruling alliance is now faced with a ‘friend turned foe’. Sena’s current political adversary BJP, knows Shiv Sena inside out. The party has been together with Sena since 1987. Both know each other’s strategies, each other’s strengths, weakness’ and even secrets very well so the Sena has to be very cautious whenever in the near future the BJP launches an attack against it.
On Monday, the BJP hit the Sena on its raw nerve. It took up in a big way, the issue of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s controversial jibe at Veer Sawarkar in Rahul’s rally in New Delhi. BJP MLAs came out in large numbers outside the assembly house in Nagpur wearing caps that had words in support of their agitation and they went on shouting slogans in front of the media demanding apology from Rahul Gandhi and saying that the country will not tolerate any insult of Veer Savarkar. This was the BJP’s strategy to make Shiv Sena as uncomfortable as possible.
The controversial comment was made by Congress party’s top leader in Delhi, Sena spokesperson had to publicly say that his party disliked the comment. Sena is now in alliance with the Congress and Sena has been an ardent supporter of Veer Savarkar and has always said in the past that Veer Savarkar should be awarded Bharat Ratna. It is very obvious that BJP now wants to put its former alliance partner on the defensive on this issue.
The strategy adopted by the BJP, just on the opening day itself of the winter session of parliament, makes it very clear what BJP will do in the coming months to push the Sena back. It will surely harp as much as possible on the Hindutva issues which were the common agenda for BJP and its former partner Shiv Sena. Both have been very vocal about this since many years.
Now with Shiv Sena sharing power with NCP and Congress (both of whom have been staunchly against BJP’s Hindutva agenda all along) Shiv Sena feels a very awkward to answer, whenever any member of the media asks any questions over any Hindutva issue. The BJP has shrewdly realised that it can engineer a rift between the Sena and Congress at some point in the future, if it keeps poking the Sena on Hindutva.
The only reason Shiv Sena decided to distance itself with the BJP was because the Sena during the December 2017 Mumbai Municipal polls realised that the BJP had an open agenda of marginalising it. Sena went away from BJP because of strategic reasons and not because of ideological differences. Sena is likely to find itself very uncomfortable sandwiched between NCP and Congress party in the coming months. In such a case all options will be again open for the BJP to try and give it a shot to capture power in Maharashtra again!