By Mahesh Vijapurkar

If you ticked any of the three options in this multi-option quiz about the relationship between the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party, it would be correct:

1. They are prepoll allies;

2. They are post-poll partners; or,

3. They are rivals.

For, at the Centre, Shiv Sena has a minister in the Narendra Modi’s NDA cabinet, having been a pre-poll ally of the BJP; has been a post-poll ally after the 2014 Assembly elections in Maharashtra and has ministers in the Devendra Fadnavis government, and in the on-going elections to the major civic bodies and 23 zilla parishads, they are rivals tearing into each other.

Of course, quite confusing, isn’t it?

But both the parties appear to be comfortable with it, though of late Shiv Sena has announced it would have no post-poll truck with any party. It has indicated that it could even pull out of the alliance, pre-and post, because it was fighting the BJP in a no-holds barred contests at the local self-government level where the desired price is the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai.

Friends or foes...?
Friends or foes...?

Every epithet and metaphor has been used, including the word ‘goonda’, and it is not hard to understand, given the way our politics have evolved, that it even fits the glove. One expression often used is ‘just you wait and see the results on February 23’ and the relationship’s direction would hit everyone in the face. Each party insists it would best the other.

It has gone to the extent of the Sena talking of a mid-term elections to the Assembly, implying its belief that it would get a measure of its own strength because the current hustings is a mini-general elections. And so does the BJP, and is averse to indicate how it can sustain itself as a minority government for the second half of the five-year term.

If mid-term polls it is going to be, then why is the Sena which managed 66 seats in multi-cornered contests, with only a memory of Bal Thackeray and his beaming image on posters, not pulling out? It could on the day the campaign ends for the current round of elections, hoping it would acquire an edge instead of blowing hot and cold. If post civic polls, and should the outcome be adverse, it would be caught between the devil and the deep sea.

Despite strong animus against BJP, the Sena has stayed put in the governments but in Maharashtra been a daily spoil sport to an extent any other outfit would have shown them the door. The anxiety of the BJP at the prospect is hidden by the bluster “we’ll last the entire term”. It is unsure of which party would align with it because it only has 133 MLAs in a House of 288, and apparently how it would be able to manage to find at least a dozen votes each time there’s a vote in the legislature.

Will Fadnavis have the last laugh...?
Will Fadnavis have the last laugh...?

The Sena, which once led the Maharashtra government as a senior ally has had to yield that status since 2014 to BJP, its then junior ally, apparently is averse to be in the Opposition. BJP broke off with the Sena in the euphoria of the Lok Sabha elections on two grounds: one, in the wake of the Modi win, it needed no partner, and that if there had to be ties, Sena should bow to BJP’s premier position in Maharashtra’s electoral politics.

That Sena cried hoarse about a betrayal, and after winning a second biggest party status, went to be a brief-duration Opposition but fell to the lures of office in the Fadnavis government. However, it refused to acknowledge by conduct its status of a partner and has all along behaved as it was an internal opposition. Like a dissident group within a single party which we have often seen in India.

In short, it has been a bad marriage with the quarrels spilling to the public domain making one wonder, yes, why not a mid-term polls?

Will Udhav regain the lost glory?
Will Udhav regain the lost glory?