Shinde being shown his place by BJP?

Frenzy in Shiv Sena as BJP reveals its hand-- plans to nab lion's share of Assembly seats-- reducing Shinde group to fringe

Shinde being shown his place by BJP?

Sujata Anandan

Chandrakant Bawankule, the BJP's Maharashtra president, has stirred a hornets nest by stating that during the next Assembly elections, his party would contest 240 of the 288 seats and the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena a mere 48.

The Shinde faction is furious and the Uddhav Thackeray group is crowing, saying, “We told you so!”

This, after all, was at the core of Uddhav's discontent with the BJP. After using Bal Thackeray’s party to build bases in Maharashtra, suddenly, with Narendra Modi at the helm, the BJP found it could afford to discard the Shiv Sena but Uddhav proved a very difficult customer to fob off with less than what he wanted. During the 2014 Assembly elections, negotiations broke down over seat sharing - the formula always had been 171 to the Shiv Sena and 117 to BJP. But now BJP wanted far more than the Sena was willing to concede, so thought it could afford to go it alone.  Despite Modi, the BJP fell short of a majority and it had to willy-nilly tie up with the Shiv Sena again. By 2019, however, Uddhav had fully understood the BJP game plan – it would pretend a friendship until it had got the numbers and then throw crumbs at its ally or throw it over completely.

Now the Shinde faction is realizing the same is being done unto them. And with far less consideration of their sensibilities. Eknath Shinde does not have even half the charisma of Uddhav Thackeray who in turn is not quite Bal Thackeray. Yet Uddhav could sustain his independence and hold his head above water simply because he is Bal Thackeray’s son and could gain the sympathy of the people.

Shinde has none of those advantages. In addition, there are a large number of Shiv Sena voters who blame him for destroying the party and he has the additional handicap of having to overcome the traditional ire of the Maharashtrians towards Gujaratis which has been magnified under the Modi-Amit Shah dispensation. If he allows his party to be reduced to such a corner he will be no better than a wagging  tail and Uddhav Thackeray’s party, in alliance with the Congress and Nationalist Congress parties, is likely to make a  clean sweep of all the potential Shiv Sena winning seats.

After protests from some Shinde faction MLAs, Bawankule has said his statement was misinterpreted but it is clear to all now, if it was not before, that Uddhav Thackeray was right all along that the BJP only intends to destroy the Shiv Sena. However, it is also clear it will be far easier for the BJP  to crush the Shinde group than it was to destroy Uddhav Thackeray. 

Sanjay Gaikwad, MLA from the Shinde faction, has said they will contest a minimum of 140 seats. That is what Uddhav was demanding in 2014 but the BJP would not budge beyond 125. It is highly unlikely that they will give in easily to this demand now for an additional 100 seats from what they are prepared to share.

The battle is now more than just between Shinde and Uddhav Thackeray. The Shinde group has its hand full now fending off this attack as well  from seeming friends.

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