Just a day before his 56th birthday, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray warned the Bharatiya Janata Party not to take the Sena support to the Devendra Fadanvis government for granted.
Uddhav's latest salvo came after party MLAs and MLCs complained to him that the BJP ministers were not responding to their requests. In a meeting held at his residence, Uddhav, however, also took his own 12 ministers to task and asked them not to ignore the requests of their own party's elected members.
Uddhav Thackeray made a startling statement after the meeting. He said, “We held each other's hand and moved on for the last 25 years or two generations. We would have come to power on our own long ago but we rotted in this alliance with the BJP.” He blamed the BJP for breaking the alliance of 25 years just two weeks before the assembly elections in 2014. He said that the Sena would work hard to install its chief minister in the next elections in Maharashtra.
Voters in Maharashtra have been witnessing this tussle and exchange of words between the Shiv Sena and the BJP since 2014. The rift was wide open during the Kalyan-Dombivali Municipal Corporation elections in 2015 when Uddhav had warned the BJP to shed its arrogance. In turn, Fadanvis had publicly told Shiv Sena not to undermine the BJP and said that his party was not “wearing bangles”.
Shiv Sena in June 2016 had put up posters mocking BJP president Amit Shah as “Gabbar Singh” of the film “Sholay” and burned the effigy of the BJP's city unit chief Ashish Shelar. Taking a firm stand, the BJP had warned its ally of delivering a 'fitting reply'.
Sena has been an uncomfortable partner in the present government. “The upcoming election in the Mumbai municipal corporation is the biggest worrying issue for Shiv Sena. Moreover, apart from Industry, Shivsena has not got any major portfolio,” said Sachin Sawant, Congress spokesperson.
The BJP has more MLAs in Mumbai than Shiv Sena and is likely to demand a bigger share in seat sharing in case of forming an alliance in the BMC elections. “BMC with an annual budget of over Rs 35,000 crore has been a milch cow for the Shiv Sena during the last 20 years. It just cannot afford to lose its last bastion to the BJP,” said Sachin Sawant.
It is the political compulsion of Shiv Sena to remain in the government and at the same time keep criticising and warning the BJP, just to keep it in check. The BJP is compelled to tolerate it to keep the government afloat.