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Sidelined allies upset with Sena-BJP alliance

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The Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party’s sudden change from its conflicting position to contesting the Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly Elections together have surprised many over the speed at which the pact was sealed. The tone of the parties has got soften down towards each other since the time they officially declared their electoral alliance. While both the parties are having a good time after finalising the seat-sharing, it is also to observe that the regional parties and allies of BJP and Sena in Maharashtra who have been supportive to these parties are left out empty-handed; these upset allies lead to many speculations around the upcoming state assembly polls in October 2019. Talks are doing rounds that if not convinced, these parties can create enough pressure for the alliance government. However, Shiv Sena MLA Anil Parab said, “There would not be a problem from the supportive parties. Raju Shetty is not supporting us. We will take care of all the alliance partners.”

As per the seat sharing formula for Lok Sabha polls, BJP would contest in 25 seats whereas Shiv Sena agreed to contest in 23 seats out of total 48 seats in the state. The Shiv Sena-BJP truce in Maharashtra has left their regional partners allies and supporters Ramdas Athawale, Mahadev Jankar, Vinayak Mete, Sadabhau Khot, and Narayan Rane upset as the seat-sharing scheme has failed to give them a single seat. The disagreements started pouring from the allies soon after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil held seat-sharing talks with Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray and declared that no regional parties will get any ticket. However, being sidelined by the Sena and BJP, Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment and Republican Party of India (RPI) President Ramdas Athawale, a part of the BJP alliance at the Centre and a member of the Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra, said that besides his efforts in brokering peace between the warring allies, his party being neglected is bad for the existing alliance. BJP MLA Yogesh Sagar asserted, “Rashtriya Samaj Paksha, Republican Party of India (RPI), and Shiv Sangram have been in alliance with BJP. So, BJP will share the seats accordingly. The parliamentary board will decide the final seat allocation.”

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Another upset ally of BJP is Mahadev Jagannath Jankar who is a senior Cabinet Minister in the Government of Maharashtra and the Minister of Animal Husbandry, Dairy Development, and Fisheries Development and the founder, and National President of Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSP). Vinayak Mete, a leader of the Shiv Sena Sangram Party also got neglected. He was elected unopposed to the Maharashtra Legislative Council in 2016. He was a member of the National Congress Party until 2014 and later a candidate from BJP in 2014 Maharashtra Legislative Assembly elections from Beed though he lost to Jaidatta Kshirsagar of NCP. BJP MP Narayan Rane announced that his party Maharashtra Swabhimaan Paksha (MSP) will contest the Lok Sabha elections independently. He founded the party in October 2017 after quitting the Congress. He also announced that his son Nilesh Rane will be contesting from the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg seat.

Narayan Rane’s son and Congress MLA Nitesh Rane said, “All the allies of BJP and Sena in Maharashtra have their individual prominence in their particular regions. All these smaller parties have their own vote bank and both Sena and BJP have insulted their allies which will result into their damage in the coming election.”

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Narayan Rane is the former Chief Minister of Maharashtra. He was also the Minister for Industry, Port, Employment and self-empowerment. He was also a member of Shiv Sena and opposition leader of Vidhan Sabha until July 2005, before he joined Indian National Congress in September 2017, and founded the Maharashtra Swabhimani Paksha. In 2018, he declared support for BJP and was elected to the Rajya Sabha on a BJP nomination. RPI National General Secretary Avinash Mahatekar said, “RPI is very angry with the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance. There have been a lot of problems between BJP and Shiv Sena since they have formed the government, and RPI always took a stand that there must be an alliance between BJP and Sena. Now, when the alliance is final, they did not take our support. We have already demanded four seats from BJP. We will clear our stand soon and start preparing for the elections.”

Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), an ally in the BJP-led government in Assam, left the alliance in protest against the proposed Citizenship Bill last month. Bhartiya Janata Party also broke its alliance with Mehbooba Mufti’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in June 2018 in Jammu and Kashmir over ideological conflicts. Telugu Desam Party (TDP) of Chandrababu Naidu also moved out of the alliance claiming that BJP stands for “Break Janata Promise”. Akali Dal in Punjab, BJD in Orissa, JDU in Bihar, and some smaller parties in other states have been partners with BJP in different states in different times but at the end, all the allies broke their alliance with the BJP. However, Apna Dal leader and Union Minister Anupriya on Friday has said that some differences have cropped up with ally BJP and her party, and now her party is free to make its own decision. The Apna Dal, a crucial ally of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, had won two seats – Mirzapur and Pratapgarh in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

In the meantime, there’s also a section of the political analysts who believe that these small regional parties will make no difference in creating pressure among these two highly powerful state and national political parties as both these parties have a stronghold in their respective region. Commenting on the seat-sharing scene, Rashtriya Samaj Paksha Chief Secretary Balasaheb Dodtale said, “We have demanded six seats from BJP for the 2019 elections. There’s a possibility that in coming to the assembly election, we will take over all the Shiv Sena seats and that will certainly be a problem for Shiv Sena. Rashtriya Samaj Paksha is campaigning all over Maharashtra and we will show the strength of our party.”

The relationship between Shiv Sena and BJP has been extremely critical in the last five years but soon after the alliance was announced, both the parties are at loggerheads again, and this time, the conflicts in the alliance are over the Chief Ministerial post. While the leaders from both the parties are making different claims on the assumption of the office of Chief Minister, Shah, and Uddhav, during the press conference announced that they have decided to allocate rights and responsibilities after they come to the power in Maharashtra. However, both the leaders didn’t mention anything about the discussed formula over the post of the Chief Minister. The contradictory statements from various leaders have triggered confusion in the political corridor.

Since, the BJP has failed to fulfill most of its previous election promises and got enough backlashes with their decisions like demonetisation, GST, Aadhaar, it seems that the upcoming election might be a tough time for the party as the 2014 Modi wave looks weak. As experts believe, if BJP fails to win, the regional parties will certainly play a very crucial part to form the governments both in the State and Centre.

By Aabid Ali & Gautam Korde

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