Bharatiya Janata Party’s oldest ally, Shiv Sena, is planning to contest in 40 seats on its own in Gujarat. Most of these candidates would be put up in the Marathi-speaking belt of south and west Gujarat.
Though Shiv Sena is a partner in the ruling NDA both at the Centre and in Maharashtra, its relationship with the Bharatiya Janata Party is not at all cordial.
In Maharashtra, in particular, the two parties have been at the loggerheads after the coming to power of Narendra Modi in May 2014. They even fought 2014 Assembly election separately, though they have to join hands to form government in the post-poll arrangement.
In the last three years the two parties have fought several elections separately, including that for the Mumbai Municipal Corporation poll, in which Shiv Sena performed better.
Fed up with the Shiv Sena’s stand some leaders of the state BJP had earlier this year even suggested a snap poll for the Maharashtra Assembly without Shiv Sena in alliance. The saffron party is hopeful that it would get comfortable majority on its own if fresh election is held.
Shiv Sena’s decision to make a maiden entry into the electoral politics of Gujarat came after a series of political twists and turns in Maharashtra politics. Its supremo Uddhav Thackeray had a meeting with the president of the Nationalist Congress Party, Sharad Pawar, and West Bengal CM, Mamata Banerjee, who heads Trinamool Congress.
With the leaders of Patidars, backward castes and Dalits Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakur and Jignesh Mevani respectively already ganged up against the BJP the Shiv Sena’s decision to field candidates in 40 seats may prove costly for the saffron party.
What is ironical is that it is the oldest, ideologically closest and arguably the strongest ally of the BJP, which is raising the banner of revolt. If the BJP wins the Gujarat election it may manage to overcome the challenge, but if it loses it may embolden other NDA partners to flex their muscles.