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Maharashtra: BJP may Shake-off NCP, Shiv Sena

Maharashtra: BJP may Shake-off NCP, Shiv Sena

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, June 14: In an apparent bid to shake off the Ajit Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party, and possibly also the chief minister Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena, from the ruling alliance before Maharashtra go to the polls to elect a new state Assembly in the next few months, the leaders of the BJP and the NCP are engaged in war of words over the performance of the three-party “Mahayuti” in the Lok Sabha elections.

Giving vent to the feelings of many of the BJP insiders that the NCP and Mr Ajit Pawar had become a “burden” on the ruling alliance, an article in Organiser, a weekly known to be close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has criticised the BJP for contesting the elections along with Ajit Pawar’s NCP.

The relations between the BJP and the NCP seem to have hit a rocky road after their rivals, the INDIA alliance, won more Lok Sabha seats in the state. Of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state, the opposition INDIA bloc won 31 seats to the Mahayuti’s 17 in which the BJP’s share was only nine seats and contributed in the BJP’s falling short of clear majority on its own in the Lok Sabha. Ajit Pawar’s party could win only a single seat.

Even the Shinde faction won less number of seats than the Shiv Sena led by party patriarch’s son Uddhav Thackeray. Considering the vote share in the Lok Sabha elections, the voters have given the Thackeray faction and the Sharad Pawar faction as the “real” Shiv Sena and NCP respectively, though the election commission’s decision before the elections was just the opposite.

According to reports, the BJP has launched an internal survey to assess if they should contest alone in the Assembly elections to be held later this year. In an article, a senior RSS leader questioned the BJP’s move to enter an alliance with the Ajit Pawar-led NCP, terming the move “ill-advised.”

“Why was this ill-advised step taken? BJP supporters were hurt because they had fought against this Congress ideology for years and were persecuted. In a single stroke, BJP reduced its brand value,” RSS’ Ratan Sharda wrote in the article. “Maharashtra is a prime example of unnecessary politicking and avoidable manipulations. Well-performing parliamentarians were ignored to accommodate such late comers,” it added.

Rajya Sabha MP and senior NCP leader Praful Patel though said the article shouldn’t be seen as a sign that all is not well between the two allies. “An article in a weekly does not reflect the BJP’s stance. It should not be interpreted in that manner,” he said. However, NCP youth wing leader Sooraj Chavan lashed out saying that when the BJP performs well, credit is given to the hard work of the RSS but a defeat is blamed on Ajit Pawar.

Hitting back, BJP leader Pravin Darekar said, “The RSS is like a father figure to all of us. There is no need to make comments about the RSS. Sooraj Chavan should not have rushed to comment on the organisation. The BJP has not commented against the NCP. It would be better if such issues are discussed during NDA meetings.”

The first signs of discord between the two parties emerged when the NCP was denied a cabinet berth in the Modi 3.0 government at the centre and the NCP refused to accept the Minister of State rank during the cabinet formation last week. Ajit Pawar and Praful Patel both expressed a desire for a cabinet berth while rejecting the offer.

The argument from the NCP’s side is that Mr Patel, as a former cabinet minister, is too senior a figure to hold a junior minister’s post. Ajit Pawar told reporters his party was “ready to wait” for that cabinet berth. Mr Patel was similarly resolute, telling reporters, “I was earlier cabinet minister (in the Congress-led UPA government and being made MoS (Minister of State) is a demotion.” Even Mr Shinde, who has seven Lok Sabha seats, was given only a single junior minister’s berth and has been told to wait till the next cabinet expansion as and when it happens.

The speculation is rife that the BJP was keen to shake off the two alliance partners now that the Assembly elections are round the corner and particularly whether it should check out the NCP from the government forthwith. Mr Ajit Pawar is enjoying the status of a deputy chief minister, the same as the BJP top leader in the state Devendra Fadnavis.

“These surveys have been launched to find out how the party will get the simple majority going solo. Besides, the surveys will also show how the BJP will perform in an alliance with the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena. It will also gauge the mood about whether to continue its alliance with the NCP,” BJP sources said.

As of now, many of the BJP leaders believe that the party on its own will perform better than contesting in alliance with the Shiv Sena or NCP or both. In the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP score this time, 240, was much lower than its 2019 tally of 303 and the 282 seats it won in 2014. The Congress, on the other hand, registered a strong growth, winning 99 seats compared to 52 it won in 2019 and 44 seats in 2014. The INDIA bloc crossed the 230 mark, posing stiff competition, and defying all predictions from exit polls.



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