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Monday, July 04, 2016

That is exactly the feeling that the cadres of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Maharashtra are feeling right now after the state leadership, in a bid to downplay Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray’s aggression has gone over the top to accommodate him.

It is abundantly clear that the cadres from both the Sena and the BJP are not interested in having an electoral alliance for the 2017 elections to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). It seems as though after the initial counter response, the BJP seems to have retracted letting the Sena have its say in the BMC elections.

Knowing fully well, the BJP leadership had virtually disowned the article that their own chief spokesperson Madhav Bhandari wrote in party mouthpiece “Manogat” (inner motive, intent), Uddhav has subtly told the BJP that his support shall remain conditional. Despite Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis trying to mollify the Sena president at the Mahim Nature Park on July 1, he (Uddhav) did not budge arguing that he would keep on criticising what he feels is not correct according to him. What Bhandari had achieved with his aggressive article was squandered away by a baffling capitulation by the party.

Bhandari, despite being the most articulate spokesperson, trouble-shooter and face of the party, has always been overlooked when it comes to deciding candidates for Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, Assembly or even Legislative Council elections. Cadres were anticipating a Bhandari like response to constant criticism from Sena, instead the leadership succumbed to the Sena.

Uddhav Thackeray, who at Senas Golden Jubilee celebrations on June 19, sounded as though he was throwing the doors open for an “honourable alliance” with the BJP and then suddenly became aggressive.

It is not just Uddhav’s aggression. It does seem that the party’s former Revenue minister Eknath Khadse too showed some misplaced aggression of his own. His comment about ‘shaking’ the country up if he opened his mouth, really only shook up his party which promptly gagged him. Not only has it gagged Khadse, but also others in the party from going public especially in the case of Sena. It is indicative of the fact that the party leadership is desperately trying to gain control of internal matters and not to let things fly off the handle.

The answer to all these problems is the cabinet expansion which probably is to take place this week. The carrot has been left dangling for so long that now no one seems to be greatly enthusiastic about it. As everywhere there are too many claimants for too little cabinet berths on offer. Clearly the exercise is aimed to pacify the Mahayuti allies of the BJP with an eye on the BMC elections. The Sena too is grappling with problems of its own with too many eyeing the cabinet berth.

Remember the on-screen character of the Jailor played by Asrani in Bollywood blockbuster “Sholay”, who in one scene ultimately finds no one is standing behind him. Sources say that it was not without any reason that on June 19 Uddhav was sounding conciliatory. However, by the end of the month it does seem as though he has made the BJP eat the humble pie.

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