MUMBAI: The comfortable victory of Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) candidate Rutuja Latke from the Andheri (East) Assembly constituency was a foregone conclusion after the walkover she got from both the BJP and the CM Eknath Shinde group of the Shiv Sena.
Will the BJP decision change the political equation in Maharashtra in the future is a million-dollar question. But the buzz in political circles now is that the Thackeray faction is trying to mend fences with the BJP. Backdoor channel talks for a patchup are already on, suggest reports. .
Recently Shiv Sena MP Rahul Shewale had said that last year in June, Sena President Uddhav Thackeray wanted an alliance with the BJP and even discussed it with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Thackeray had met PM Modi along with the NCP’s Ajit Pawar, the then Deputy CM, and the Congress’ Ashok Chavan, who was also part of the MVA Cabinet, with a charter of demands. Thackeray also had a one-onone meeting with Modi during the visit.
Uddhav spoke about a Shiv SenaBJP alliance when he met PM Modi. But, right after that, in July, the monsoon session of the Assembly started and 12 BJP MLAs were suspended.
Then the BJP leadership took a step back, saying on the one hand the Shiv Sena was talking about an alliance and on the other hand BJP MLAs were getting suspended. Later the BJP leadership did not like the way the Shiv Sena was responding to talks and the discussions stopped. According to Shewale, Thackeray told the MPs that he had made every attempt possible to have an alliance with the BJP, and that the MPs should make efforts at their end now. MPs and most of his faction’s MLAs have advised Thackeray that coming with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would be a good first step towards future electoral talks.
As per political analysts, the big paradox is that Thackeray’s MLA and MPs had told him in no uncertain terms that they wanted to contest the 2024 election with the BJP. They also shared a list of problems in their constituencies that they were facing while being part of the MVA. The MLAs had urged Thackeray to sever ties with the NCP and the Congress and align with the BJP.
On the other hand, some analysts are also of the view that the politics in Maharashtra could be taking a new turn with the division in Shiv Sena that gives the BJP an unparalleled leverage, but also rekindled the idea of Marathi Manoos (son of the soil) syndrome. After the split in the Shiv Sena, people are asking as to which group, Shinde, BJP or Udhhav, is the gainer. Discussions are on whether CM Shinde has gained tangibly in the past five months or has merely allowed the BJP to play the first fiddle.
The endeavour to take over the Shiv Sena by Shinde was the most audacious attempt by any politician after the famous hijacking of the Congress by Indira Gandhi using the presidential elections of 1968-69. She succeeded; and Shinde succeeded too.
As the Uddhav group is lying low, except for staging the customary Dussehra rally on October 5, the long-delayed election to the cash-rich BMC, expected to be held by the yearend, will be the first test of the viability of the Shinde Sena-BJP alliance and the relevance of the out-of-power Uddhav Sena-Congress-NCP coalition. A Mumbai-based political observer was of the view that the Shinde faction has gained by winning the support of most Sena MLAs. It is also true that by virtually decimating the Uddhav group and splitting the Shiv Sena, the BJP has removed the last obstacle ahead of the 2024 General Election.