Intro: The sooner the Sena is asked to get rid of its schizoid behaviour the better it is for the State. It should be asked to make-up its mind whether it is a ruling party or an Opposition outfit.
The Shiv Sena is behaving in a most petulant manner in Maharashtra. It reminds us of a child who throws tantrums just because it has been denied a lollypop. It adopted an unreasonable stand during the seat-sharing talks and eventually the saffron allies fought the Assembly polls separately. After the verdict, the Sena acted hard-to-get and it came on board after considerable dithering. Even though it bagged far less number of seats than the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) it first staked its claim to chief ministership and then modified it to chief ministership by rotation. With the BJP and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis acting tough, the Sena had no choice but join the government unconditionally. According to political observers, there would have been a revolt in the party had it not joined the government.
Not a single day passes without the party mouthpiece Saamna targetting Fadnavis and the BJP. When the BJP was trounced in the Delhi Assembly polls, the Sena did everything short of publicly celebrating the downfall of its ally in the National Capital. It even questioned the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Sena's controversial minister Ramdas Kadam even accused Fadnavis of corruption and quickly retracted when the CM threatened to expel him.
Even the worse enemies of the BJP have not charged young Fadnavis with corruption, but here was a member of the council of ministers hitting the hardworking CM below the belt. Sena ministers of State are constantly complaining that they have no work to do, but the fact is that many of them do not perform even the tasks assigned to them. Those familiar with the Sena's handling of civic affairs in the Mumbai municipal corporation will testify to its managerial abilities or the lack of them. Mumbai has never been in such a mess as it is today. Only direct intervention by the CM can salvage the urbs prima India. The party is championing non-issues like having all-night bars and restaurants as if that is the burning issue before the people of Maharashtra. In a deft move, Ashish Shelar, president of the Mumbai unit of the BJP, promptly demanded that eateries catering to the poor should also be kept open throughout the night if the party-going elite of Mumbai are going to have access to food and drinks round-the-clock.
The Sena’s demand only underscores it’s growing disconnect with the common man. Maharashtra now has a young CM who is displaying a grand vision for Maharashtra; a State which was ruined comprehensively by the erstwhile Congress-NCP Government. Despite the lack of administrative experience, Fadnavis is showing good administrative acumen. His bold handling of the urban development department has come in for appreciation. His efforts to boost the ‘Make in Maharashtra’ campaign and improve power generation, including the plan to revive the ill-fated Dabhol Project and smooth postings and transfers in the police department have rightly earned him the support of captains of industry and bureaucrats as a whole.
It is true that the gunning down of CPI leader Govind Pansare has been a major embarrassment for the Home Ministry which is directly handled by Fadnavis. But, it is most unfair to hold the CM responsible as the Shiv Sena is doing now. Fadnavis's response to the shocking incident was swift. He not only ensured the best medical treatment for Pansare, but also set-up several teams of policemen to track down the killers.
However, the sooner the Sena is asked to get rid of its schizoid behaviour the better it is for the State. It should be asked to make-up its mind whether it is a ruling party or an Opposition outfit. It’s high time someone tells the Sena that its constant needling of the Fadnavis Government, of which it is a part, is only exposing the party to public ridicule. People are already stating that if the Sena is so critical of the BJP then what prevents it from pulling out of the government. The problem is that the Sena cannot afford to sit in the Opposition for the next five years.
If it does that then the BJP will easily occupy the political space occupied hitherto by its so-called ally. The Congress is thoroughly discredited and the NCP, which lost is honest mascot RR Patil recently, are in no position to stage a comeback in any sense. The sooner the Sena reads the writing on the wall, the better for it.
S Balakrishnan (The writer is a former Bureau Chief The Times of India, Mumbai)