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Are BJP & Shiv Sena Ready For Rapprochement?

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Mumbai: Political equations are very flippant – today you are at loggerheads, the next day, you send an olive branch to your opponents.

If recent developments are to go by, the once-upon-a-time acrimony between the BJP and the Shiv Sena seems to be heading for a termination. Though it is early days, feelers from both the saffron units lend credence to an attempt to bury the hatchet which could give birth to newer dynamics in the cash-rich state and even beyond.

Firebrand Sena spokesperson, Sanjay Raut who is famous for hurling acrid barbs at the BJP, recently lavished praises on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the latter’s birthday, stating Modi had taken the BJP to new heights after AB Bajpayee. If it were not enough, the BJP has gone one step ahead by lauding chief minister Uddhav Thackeray’s performance at the helm.

BJP Belapur MLA, Manda Mhatre said on Wednesday, “The chief minister is doing good work,” adding he (Thackeray) didn’t hesitate give his nod to a super-speciality hospital in Navi Mumbai.

“When the chief minister is supportive of our projects and gives it a push, why not say he is doing good work,” PTI quoted the MLA. Mhatre also elaborated that Thackeray was all ears to anybody approaching him with a proposal irrespective of party colour.

On the CM being lambasted by the BJP, she added, “A chief minister is for the entire state. As a leader of the state he has to take important decisions. If we say that he has been doing good work, what is wrong in it?”

These mutual words of appreciation are also an indication that all may not be well in the Sena-NCP-Congress Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance which calls the shots in the state.

In fact, some Congress leaders have been vocal against the Sena, especially state president Nana Patole, who has openly exhorted the party to go it solo in the future. In fact, Patole has been quite fearless of late with his jibes at the Sena that has not gone down well with his coalition partners.

Surprisingly, Patole is yet to be reprimanded by the party High Command which bears testimony to the tacit support he enjoys from his bosses. Similarly, Thackeray has come in for a lot of flak over his handling of the pandemic. His alliance partners were also reportedly miffed with him for his dependence on his former Principal Adviser Ajoy Mehta. Thackeray has also been at the receiving end over the Saki Naka rape and murder.

According to a report in Free Press Journal, Rahul Gandhi had lamented the lack of say the Congress had on the running of the administration.

In view of these emerging fissures within the alliance, the bridging of gap between the Shiv Sena and the BJP doesn’t catch you unawares. Thackeray’s predecessor Devendra Fadnavis with backing from Modi, Amit Shah and BJP president JP Nadda, could be entrusted with the responsibility of sending overt overtures to the Sainiks to nip the bitter past in the bud and let bygones be bygones.

However, the remarriage wouldn’t be a cakewalk as the scrimmage over the CM’s post could reemerge like in 2019. But politics throws strange bedfellows – if the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress with contradictory ideologies can come under the same roof, the Hindutva connection could be the catalyst to bring the two saffron parties on the same boat.

The BJP has 105 seats against the Sena’s 56 – with the next elections slated for 2024, a merger would give the combination a majority on the floor of the house but to reiterate, the reunion would be facing impediments in its way. A section in the BJP led by union minister Narayan Rane who has an axe to grind with Thackeray, would oppose it tooth and nail, yet he might have to succumb to the final diktat of Modi and Shah.

Getting the Shiv Sena back into its fold would also stand the BJP in good stead at the national level in the wake of several anti-BJP fronts on the anvil (some even with the Shiv Sena being part of them). So, both ways, it’s a win-win situation which would play a stellar role in defining electoral alliances ahead of both the state and the Lok Sabha elections.

It is at this juncture that the role of an astute Sharad Pawar of the NCP comes into play  One of the architects of the yet-to-be built anti-BJP front, Pawar would go full throttle to save the coalition, but murmurs of the veteran leader’s displeasure with Thackeray can also spell the death knell for the MVA.

But you never know, the lure of entering the Rashtrapati Bhawan can influence the NCP supremo to leave the Congress in the lurch. In politics, never dare to have the final word!

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