The Shiv Sena was belligerent all these days, but towards the end of the day on Monday, the body language had changed.

After the BJP decided not to form government, the Shiv Sena was invited, but lacked the required numbers. It waited for a go ahead from the NCP and Congress, but the latter put on hold its decision to go ahead with the alliance.

Also read: Why SPG cover had become status symbol and no longer security cover for the Gandhis

As discussions go on in Maharashtra, it would be interesting to take a look at whether the Shiv Sena has committed political suicide in its zest to occupy the chair of the chief minister. By the end of the day, on Monday, the Shiv Sena had lost quite a bit. It was out of the NDA, lost a minister at the Centre and still did not make much progress in forming the government in Maharashtra.

Not all hunky-dory:

It is a fact that the BJP and Shiv Sena fought the elections together, with Devendra Fadnavis as the face. The people of Maharashtra gave both parties the mandate and as per the coalition dharma, there ought to have a been a BJP led government in place.

However, the Shiv Sena which was nurturing major ambitions tried to hard bargain with the BJP. But the BJP which has turned the tables in Maharashtra refused to give in to that bargain.

It must be recalled that in the 1990s, when the BJP and Shiv Sena came together the latter was the lead partner. However, the BJP has come a long way and today, it is way ahead of the Shiv Sena.

The Sena was obviously feeling marginalised coupled with the fact that it is fast losing its core vote banks. The Sena started out by supporting mill owners and got their backing in return. It then played the Marathi card and targeted South Indians at first and then some Gujaratis. However, these were not working out in the long run for the Shiv Sena, which then turned towards the Hindutva card.

It would not be wrong to say that the Hindutva card did not work for the Shiv Sena. But the fact is that the BJP gained ground at a rapid pace in this space. One may say that following the same ideology as your alliance partner was not the best of moves for the Shiv Sena.

In fact, the new voices in the Shiv Sena have realised this folly. They are changing their Hindutva agenda as the Hindutva space is occupied by the BJP. They have suddenly started speaking about good governance and are trying to drive the message that Aaditya Thackeray is a different kind of leader.

Missing the larger picture:

For the Shiv Sena, the main source of power is the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. It is a prestigious space to occupy and currently the Shiv Sena has the maximum number of corporations.

The BJP on the other hand put up an impressive performance in 2017. It has 82 corporators as opposed to the 84 that the Shiv Sena has. In 2012, the Shiv Sena had 75, while the BJP just 31. In 2007, the BJP had just 28, while the Shiv Sena had 84. If one looks at these numbers, the BJP has made massive inroads, much to the disliking of the Sena.

Leading psephologist, Dr Sandeep Shastri tells MyNation that the BMC is a serious challenge for the Sena. The BJP has been closing in on the Shiv Sena and in the next election if they beat them, then it would be a huge challenge for the Sena. The main issue for the Sena has been the BMC and in this zest to occupy the CM’s post in the state, it may just be missing the larger picture and that is the BMC, says Dr Shastri.

The BMC is a prestige issue for the Sena. It is India’s richest municipal corporations and the annual budget exceeds that of some of India’s smaller states.

While the Shiv Sena seems confident of winning the BMC elections, it cannot lose sight of the fact that the BJP will be a major player this year too. If its alliance with the Congress and NCP works in the state, it may have to adopt the same combination at the BMC as well. The BMC with 227 members needs 114 seats for a simple majority.

Analysts would say that with the focus moving towards the CM’s chair, the Sena may lose sight of the BMC and could end up with lesser numbers. This would mean that it would have to depend on the NCP and Congress for support and the two parties would demand their pound of flesh.

No rosy run:

Once the results of the elections were announced, the Shiv Sena did everything it could to pressurise the BJP. It repeatedly spoke about the 50:50 agreement and the BJP always maintained that there was none.

Dr Shastri says that even if the NCP and Congress does extend its support, it will be no rosy run for the Shiv Sena. It is clear that the NCP and Congress are trying to drive a very hard bargain. May be the NCP is even demanding a 50:50 with the Shiv Sena. When the Shiv Sena met with the Governor last night, it was expected that they would form the government. However clearly the letters of support had not come as the bargain was still on, Dr Shastri further explains. In case the issues are ironed out, then I see the NCP telling the Governor that it would support the Shiv Sena along with the Congress.

However, it is not going to be easy for the Shiv Sena. The NCP and the Congress both would have huge demands and the Shiv Sena will have to meet them. It is clear when one sees the body language of the Shiv Sena at the moment, the exuberance has died down as the NCP and Congress are demanding their share in the cake. The Shiv Sena has come to understand that the going is not going to be an easy one and the partners will be very strong in their bargaining. This is what explains the body language, Dr Shastri says.

He further adds that the Shiv Sena stretched it too far. They had hoped that the BJP would concede and later on they found it difficult to withdraw. All they had in mind was power and to attain that they broke the alliance and at the end of it, it became difficult for them, he also adds.

Running the government especially with the NCP will not be easy. The Shiv Sena is trying to increase its spread across Maharashtra, but the NCP will not allow that to happen easily.  The Congress on the other hand has nothing much to lose at the moment. By allowing it to enter into the alliance, it has been given the importance that it has been looking for. This would mean that the Congress sword would always hang over the heads of the NCP and Shiv Sena. Another aspect is that the Congress would now be seen as backing a party which has a Hindutva ideology. This would prove to be contradictory for the Congress and hence it would play its cards carefully as the days go by. This was in fact clear when Sonia Gandhi had in the first instance refused the offer by the NCP to support the Sena.

Dr Shastri says that he does not see the BJP doing anything now. It will wait and watch. In case there is no government formation, then there would be President’s rule. I also do not rule out another election, he also adds.

The BJP, which is the single largest party, would not make any moves now. It would wait for things to play out and also look to gain from all the problems the new coalition is likely to face. BJP sources say that there would be no over ambitious moves and they would not try and bring down a government if it is formed. We are confident that this is an unnatural alliance and it would not sustain, the source also noted.

An uneasy relationship:

The relation between the BJP and Shiv Sena has always been an uneasy one. The Shiv Sena always felt that the BJP was out to marginalise it in Maharashtra. The strains were at its highest in 2014 and the two parties fought the Assembly polls separately.

In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the BJP to an unprecedented win. The BJP sensed a big opening in Maharashtra. In the Assembly elections, the BJP won 122 seats, while the Shiv Sena won 63 out of the 288. The Shiv Sena was forced to become the junior partner in the alliance. This was a rude awakening for the Shiv Sena. The two parties which had formed the government in 1995 was headed by Shiv Sena leaders. The BJP was the junior partner back then.

The rise of the BJP began to worry the Shiv Sena. It would have hoped to play a bigger role in the Centre with 18 seats. In fact, it was the biggest constituent of the NDA, but it made no difference to the BJP as the party has 303 in the 543-member house.

Going by these developments, it is clear that the happenings in Maharashtra are only aimed at keeping the BJP out of power. They have nothing in common to work on and the alliance would be short-lived says Sandeep Shastri. The Sena does realise that it pushed things too far and today it is at a point of no return. It is also aware of the fact that even if it goes back to the BJP, none of its demands would be fulfilled.