BJP-Sena war of words threatens state alliance
Mumbai - 2 parties to go it alone in local polls after blackening of Kulkarni's face.
By Nithin Belle
Published: Wed 14 Oct 2015, 12:00 AM
Last updated: Wed 14 Oct 2015, 2:00 AM
The frosty relations between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its longtime ally the Shiv Sena are unraveling rapidly, especially after the brouhaha over the book launch by former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri.
A day after the ugly incident involving Sudheendra Kulkarni, the ex-aide of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, whose face was blackened by Shiv Sena hooligans on Monday, ties between the two allies deteriorated sharply.
The Sena, which compared Kulkarni to Ajmal Kasab, the Pakistani terrorist involved in the 26/11 attack on Mumbai, decided to go it alone in the forthcoming elections to the Kalyan-Dombivli municipal corporation. The BJP and the Sena were to have fought the elections, to be held on November 1, together.
The two parties share an uneasy alliance and are in power not just at the centre in Delhi and the state government in Mumbai, but also run the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC), besides a few other civic bodies in the state.
Widely criticised by all political parties, the media and even prominent citizens for its growing intolerance - the Sena had warned of disrupting a proposed ghazal concert by eminent Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali last week, besides the book launch by Kasuri - the party appeared unrepentant on Tuesday.
Sanjay Raut, a Sena MP, lashed out at Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, and said it was his government that had brought disrepute to the state by his 'pro-Pakistan' stance of allowing the book launch function. Fadnavis had on Monday night criticised the Sena for its hooliganism and had said it had brought disrepute to Maharashtra.
"While we cannot endorse Kasuri, we can't let our state turn into a banana republic," Fadnavis had said, referring to the threats by the Sena to disrupt events featuring Pakistani guests. Mumbai police had been out in full strength at the Nehru Centre on Monday to ensure that the book launch function was not disrupted by Sena goons.
A bitter Sena, increasingly finding itself isolated on the issue, launched vicious attacks on its critics. Party mouthpiece Saamna declared that India does not face as much threats from Pakistani terrorists as it does from the likes of Kulkarni. "The real threat to India's sovereignty is not from terrorists, but people like Kulkarni," it said. "An atmosphere is being created where it appears that Kasuri is a messenger of peace and the Sena has committed a crime by opposing him."
The Sena has been frustrated over the past nearly 18 months by an assertive BJP, which has been ignoring its demands for a more prominent role, both at the centre and in the state. The BJP, which had always been a junior ally of the Sena, managed to emerge as the single-largest party in Maharashtra after last year's general and state elections.
The Sena leadership is worried with the continuing popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the fact that the BJP continues to ignore it. Sources believe that the Sena might over the coming days pull out of the Maharashtra government, as it has failed to land lucrative portfolios for its ministers.