MUMBAI: The BJP’s disgruntled ally Shiv Sena appears to be spoiling for a showdown in Maharashtra, with speculations about arch enemy Narayan Rane’s entry to the BJP. Senior leaders claimed party chief Uddhav Thackeray will soon take a call on continuing in the government. The BJP has ignored the claims. Its state spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said they haven’t had any formal communication from the Sena.
Sources in Shiv Sena said Uddhav Thackeray is likely to speak to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis soon. Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut had earlier said that the meeting will be to issue a “final ultimatum”. “Then he will take a decision (on continuing in the government),” the lawmaker from Rajya Sabha had said.
Narayan Rane was expelled from the Sena in 2005 after he accused Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray of having blind love for his son Uddhav Thackeray. Mr Rane has recently quit the Congress and his possible inclusion in the party will be seen as a huge insult to the Sena and its chief.
Though Mr Rane has been silent on switching camps, he has attacked state Congress president Ashok Chavan and Congress leader Mohan Prakash recently at an event in Sindhudurg, saying they had ‘taken a supari (contract) to finish the Congress in the state’.
If the Sena pulls out of the government, the BJP will have to count on the support of NCP. Party sources claim it has a Plan B in place. The BJP has 122 legislators in the Maharashtra assembly, where the majority mark is at 145. The NCP, with its 41 legislators, can prop up the government if the Sena, with its 63 lawmakers, walks out.
The NCP says it has received no overtures from the BJP so far. The party, despite its claims of ideological opposition, had offered support to the BJP after the state assembly elections which the Sena and the BJP contested separately, saying it was in the interest of stability.
The Sena, however, returned to the BJP fold and formed the government but failed to get the plum portfolios it aspired for.
The party has since offered a continuous stream of criticism for the BJP policies at the state and the Centre – the most recent being the bullet train project that was unveiled last week during Japan President Shinzo Abe’s visit.
The Sena was also overlooked during the recent reshuffle at the Centre, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi had kept in-house.