Oscillating between split and unity

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 10 Jun 2018 15:21:43




By Rahul Dixit                                     


Shelving mutual distrust, mending fences and forming a joint tactic with ideological issues to counter the proposed grand alliance of Opposition parties would be a win-win situation for both the BJP and Shiv Sena

PALGHAR is done and dusted. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) walked away with all honours as friend-cum-foe Shiv Sena sulked, cowered and resumed normal service by levelling allegations. As the political Tom & Jerry show of one-upmanship continues to entertain people and political rivals in Maharashtra, the old allies are slowly but surely returning to a common ground. Change in tone and tenor, shift in attitudes and an atmosphere of affability among the leaders of both parties has opened up possibilities of rapprochement. Politics is a game of equations -- strange and timely.

The BJP-Sena alliance has been through such phases of acrimony. It is a style well adopted by Shiv Sena that never walks the conventional path in politics, be it state or national. Always in a state of high dudgeon and spitting spleen against its ruling partner, Uddhav Thackeray’s role of Opposition within the Government is a ploy played really well by Sena. For, both the parties have the accommodation and ability to reach a modus vivendi when time is ripe.

Change in stance by both the old allies is very much on the horizon. The vicious barbs and calumny that heralded the Palghar bypoll campaigning was followed by modest opinions of a rethink. These are all pointers to a fresh start even though the Shiv Sena chief’s ‘Modi vs All’ narrative and reiteration of going solo in the forthcoming elections rumbles on.

Shiv Sena’s grouse against the BJP was for the treatment it was allegedly meted while sharing power. It further led to Thackeray making Prime Minister Narendra Modi as his personal target. But the threat of walking out of the Government never mattered. Thackeray flew off the handle and his power crusade made him look like an anti-BJP force. But the Sena is well aware of the ground realities and the partners to depend upon when pre-poll alliances begin to take shape in a few months.

Despite all his talk of joining hands with the outlandish grand alliance envisaged by the Congress and other Opposition parties, Uddhav Thackeray has a historical and ideological bonding with the BJP that he will bring to the table for a hard bargain when Amit Shah opens up the seat-sharing trade.

Sena has played its card really well for this bargain power by remaining in the Government. It is gauging the general mood and an opportunity to sell its own importance to the BJP. Though bypolls are no indicators for things to come in general elections, the recent defeats in UP and Maharashtra have definitely sobered the BJP think-tank. When it came to power in 2014 the top BJP leadership had its core belief in being the aggressive partner in alliances based on the overwhelming majority it achieved. It was a perfect approach stemming from the confidence of performance and absence of a major threat in the immediate vicinity. However, it soon took shape of a steadfast notion making the coalition partners jittery, though they never had any alternative.

Accommodation is the biggest virtue in coalition politics. In the present era, unipolar polity is very much possible but difficult to manage. Reaching out to the allies is paramount for the dominant partner which the BJP is pretty capable of. It has managed coalitions of difficult and tricky allies with smart leveraging. It is the bounden duty of a senior party to placate partners, especially a caterwauling ally like Shiv  Sena, one of the oldest ideological allies.

Shiv Sena’s sordid attitude towards the Government and derogatory attacks on the Prime Minister are reprobating and yet, the BJP has hardly responded to the pejorative. While the Sena chief and mouthpiece ‘Saamna’ are leading the scathing attacks against Modi and other top functionaries, BJP’s response comes through the second-tier leaders with occasional taunts from Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. For the old timers in both the parties, it is a rant of a cantankerous wife that needs attention only at the right time. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari rightly summed up the relation between the two partners as a marital discord.

Sena’s prudishness has a limited life. Power is not a constant and larger goals are definitely on the mind of Uddhav Thackeray. It’s yet to be seen whether his claim of contesting 2019 Lok Sabha elections alone would pay him off or make him emerge as an underdog. But history and the love-hate relation the two allies share hint at a reconciliation.

Shelving mutual distrust, mending fences and forming a joint tactic with ideological issues to counter the proposed grand alliance of Opposition parties would be a win-win situation for both the BJP and Shiv Sena. Accommodation of each other’s concerns and safeguarding party interests should form a foundation for further electoral battles. The time for swinging between split and unity is definitely over.