Tiger is tamed as BJP leadership makes Sena toe the line
Finally, the yes and no is over and the Shiv Sena has agreed to toe the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) line at least for the time being. This is a major break-through in the 'never united' alliance of the BJP and the Sena, who are partners in power in Maharashtra and also in the Union Government. Sena leaders and its mouth-piece Saamana those had been opposing the BJP government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi time and again have now been tamed by the political maneuvering of the BJP leadership. The fact that the Sena Party Chief Uddhav Thackeray attended the dinner meeting of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) constituents in Delhi on Monday only makes it amply clear that the tiger is now tamed. The meeting, attended by 32 allies of the NDA also expressed solidarity with the BJP and accepted the leadership of Modi to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. These developments only prove the supremacy of the BJP on one hand and the fickle mind thinking process within the Sena.
This dinner conclave had a background of forthcoming Presidential election due in July-August. Now that the BJP is sitting pretty in the saddle in Delhi and many State Assemblies, Modi and his associates wish to see a hard-core BJP man sitting in the top post of Constitutional Head of the nation for the first time. The BJP had the opportunity to elect a BJP man for the post when Atal Behari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister in 2002. However, the calculations of votes showed that it was not possible to win the election only on the strength of the BJP. Thus, the party had to go for a 'compromise' candidate and the candidature of the 'missile man' Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam came forth. He won the election comfortably. However, this time the BJP does not wish to go for any 'compromise'.
In that case, the party has to keep all constituents of the NDA together at least till August, thus the 'dinner diplomacy'. Even after considering the ever increasing strength of the BJP in many states, it is falling short of some five thousand votes. On the other hand, the Sena enjoys near the same votes considering its 18 Lok Sabha and three Rajya Sabha MPs and 63 State Assembly members. This support is important and decisive for the BJP to pass the poll. The BJP is thus making all efforts to ensure that the Sena horses stay in their stable at least till the Presidential election.
If one looks at the recent developments in this light, many issues are answered automatically. For example, the Union Government was forced to bow to the pressure from the Sena and revoke the ban to fly by Air India or any other private carriers against the Sena Member of Parliament, Ravindra Gaekwad for his shameful unruly behavior on flight on 23rd March. Gaekwad hit an Air India officer with his foot-wear 25 times in the aircraft and later boasted about it. Now that the ban is lifted after a fortnight, Gaekwad and Shiv Sainiks across the state are jubilant as for them it's their 'victory' against the Narendra Modi Government.
Interestingly, the Sena is a part of the same BJP Government. The Sena MPs had submitted a Breach of Privilege Motion against the Air India Corporation and its officers. Whether the incident that took place outside the Parliament House and has even remotely no reflection on the business of the House, the notice of the motion was given with a clear intention of brining the government on its knees. The government went on back-foot and withdrew the ban order against erring MP.
After initially expressing its displeasure and shock over Gaekwad's assault took about turn and whole-heartedly stood by the erring MP. Not only did the party leadership protect the MP but the party MPs levelled serious charges against the Air India and its employees. Incidentally, the Sena has two nation-wide recognized unions in the government owned corporation. Another question is what made the BJP change its mind and allow the ban on Gaekwad revoked after the Sena chaos? Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan was seen as a helpless mute spectator when more than a dozen Sena MPs were freely disturbing the proceeding of the House. She could have and should have named the erring members and initiated disciplinary action against the unruly MPs. Instead she saw no logic in the blanket ban on the MP and advised the administration not to stretch the issue beyond the point. Taking the clue, the Civil Aviation Minister promptly sent a message to the Air India Management and by evening the ban was lifted.
It was not a mere coincidence that the Sena MPs on the floor of the Lok Sabha had threatened to disturb Air India flights operating from Mumbai Airport. Clearly, it was a statement of strength and Sena's muscle power to which the Government bowed in distress. The image of the government that it tolerates 'no non-sense' took a beating as it did not stand up to the Sena threat. Is it a fact that the Civil Aviation Ministry is scared of the strength of Sena Unions in Mumbai? Or is there any other reason that has yet not reached the surface?
Not for the first time
Let us recall that this is not the first time in near past when the BJP leadership succumb to the pressure from the Sena. The BJP fell two seats short of Sena's tally of 84 in the Mumbai Municipal Corporation elections last month. As none of the parties were in a position to elect the Mayor on one's own strength, it was obvious that the Sena should have cooperated with the BJP for forge an alliance. However, the Sena stood firm and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced BJP's withdrawal from the post of Mayor or any other post in the City Hall, instead decided to play the role of 'watch dog'. Now it has worked in favour of the Sena MP, though the Police investigations are still in progress. However, the fact that the Delhi Police have not initiated any action against Gaekwad even 15 days after it received the official complaint from the Air India; the mood of the Union Home Department is loud and clear.
The BJP surely has a hidden agenda behind appeasing the stubborn Sena. If that is the game-plan, the BJP would not continue to take the Sena non-sense beyond August and would surely come down heavily against it. It is not a mere co-incidence that the Maharashtra Government has still not appointed the Up-Lokayukta (Deputy Ombudsman) the post to look into the complaints about Mumbai till now. It is needless to say that the BJP and Modi are sitting pretty in their saddles and it is for all others to fall in line before it is too late. If Modi manages to secure those 5000 odd votes from other smaller or regional parties like AIADMK or Biju Janata Dal, he would show the Sena its place even before the Presidential poll. Anyway, twice in the past the Sena has voted against the official candidate of the NDA. Let the history not repeat this time too as it would prove too dear for the Sena.