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Sena-BJP ties hit rock bottom as Fadnavis completes one year

Devendra Fadnavis

Mumbai : Even as the Devendra Fadnavis government completes a year in office this week, the partnership between BJP and its oldest ideological ally Shiv Sena is at an all-time low, raising a question mark over the political stability of the regime.

The unfolding scenario has thrown up doubts in the minds of people whether the government will be able to complete its tenure, say political observers.

The Sena, after severing ties with BJP on the eve of assembly polls, joined the government in December last year and since then has relentlessly been attacking the policies and approaches of the ministry through its mouthpiece ‘Saamana’ on various issues.

Increasing its stridency, the Sena recently forced cancellation of Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali’s event in the city and later opposed the book launch of former Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri.

Sena activists blackened the face of the event organiser, Sudheendra Kulkarni, causing much embarrassment to BJP and triggering widespread protests across the country.

Though the BJP has refrained from openly reacting to the ally’s aggressive posturing, state party functionaries, requesting anonymity,said the Government would continue even if the Sena pulls out of it.

Political observers, however, say BJP has failed to control Sena’s capacity to create “nuisance repeatedly”.

The disconnect between the allies, both wedded to Hindutva ideology, further widened when Sena ‘boycotted’ all functions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Mumbai on October 11.

“Shiv Sena is its natural ally and BJP needs to carry along so that the government completes its tenure. If Shiv Sena withdraws support, BJP can take NCP support, but will lose its credibility,” they said.

Congress leader Anant Gadgil described the BJP-Sena ties as a “live-in relationship after divorce“.

Tackling Shiv Sena, maintaining social harmony and strengthening social fabric in the state is a challenge for BJP for the rest of its tenure, observers said but discounted the chances of it quitting the government any time soon.

“If the Sena emerges as the single largest party in the upcoming Kalyan-Dombivali municipal polls, it will get an upper hand to pressurise the BJP. If BJP gives in to the Sena during the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation election (to be held in 2017) to ensure stability of the government, it would be Sena’s victory,” they say.

“Its real strength lies in the BMC which has Rs 13,000 crore budget and grassroot cadre in the city,” they say.

Gadgil, a member of the State Legislative Council, told PTI that the government’s claim of running a transparent regime is not true.

“It has done nothing on allegations against education minister Vinod Tawde whose educational qualifications came under cloud and the purchases made by his department without inviting tenders, and the ‘chikki scam‘ involving women and child development minister Pankaja Munde,” he said.

Taking on the junior partner, a BJP leader said this was not an alliance government in true sense since the Sena had joined it after the elections.

“BJP formed the government and the Sena joined it later. Even if it quits, there is no threat to the government. BJP does not consider the Sena as a challenge, but a hurdle,” a BJP leader said requesting anonymity.

Gadgil, however, said “BJP keeps humiliating the Sena and the latter’s mouthpiece Saamana and its leaders take on the government and BJP at any given moment.”

Congress spokesman Ratnakar Mahajan said the 45-year-old Chief Minister’s goodwill is withering and termed the government’s claims of achievements as “inflated”.

“The non-controversial image of Fadnavis had generated a positive and favourable feeling about the new government among people. However, Fadnavis’ own partymen, including senior leader Eknath Khadse, were instrumental in making the caste divide in BJP public by saying that Chief Minister from Bahujan Samaj would have been good,” he said.

Mahajan said the government failed to deal with the drought crisis in the first year of its rule.

“The previous government faced drought conditions for three consecutive years. The Congress government in 1972 had laid down the rules to be followed in case of drought, like making available drinking water for people, fodder and water for cattle, concessions in power bills for agriculture pumps and phasing out of arrears, rescheduling of crop loan.

“These steps were taken immediately when there were indications that the state will face drought conditions. However, this government delayed its response to the natural calamity. The suicide of a 16-year-old girl in Latur because of her inability to pay for the bus pass to travel to college is a stark example of the government’s failure,” he said.

He alleged that the government has only served the interests of big traders and contractors.

BJP spokesman Madhav Bhandari said the fiscal situation and the looming threat of drinking water scarcity are the major challenges before the government.

“Farmers in drought-hit areas have been covered under the food security scheme for last couple of months,” he said.

He said the performance of the first BJP government in the state was “promising” and the public perception was that it is making sincere efforts.

“The state witnessed drought, hailstorm and unseasonal rains last year and this year, too, there have been drought conditions in majority districts. The state’s debt has crossed Rs 3.8 lakh crore and there is no borrowing capacity left.

“The main issue is how to raise funds for drought relief. Due to deficient rainfall, 3/4th of the state will face drinking water scarcity. Money can be raised, but where does one get water from?” he asked.

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