NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Maharashtra may be headed towards a tactical understanding with the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in view of the changing political atmosphere in the state and keeping in mind the upcoming Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls where MNS has a sizeable presence. Both the political parties in recent times have shown closeness on various issues while targeting the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in general and the Shiv Sena in particular. Talking to The Sunday Guardian, Yashwant Killedar, MNS chief spokesperson, said, “As of now no alliance talk has started. But, yes workers at the ground level want an alliance with the BJP as both the political parties share some common ideological agenda and it will be in mutual benefit. But, any decision from our side about the alliance will be taken by our leader Raj Thackeray.”
Recently on multiple occasions, Raj Thackeray had sent feelers to the BJP by heaping praises on Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government. In a massive rally held in Aurangabad amid the ongoing political row in Maharashtra over the use of loudspeakers at religious places of worship while giving ultimatum to the state government to remove loudspeakers from mosques, the MNS chief again praised the Uttar Pradesh government for pulling down loudspeakers from mosques and even asked the Maharashtra government led by the Shiv Sena to learn from the UP government.
However, the BJP had not shown interest for a direct alliance, but leaders are not denying about the “tactical understanding”. Talking to The Sunday Guardian, Keshav Upadhye, chief spokesperson of Maharashtra BJP, said, “BJP had a clear policy that we will strengthen our own organizational structure and prepare for the upcoming polls on our own. It is our strength that three parties needed to get united to stop the BJP from forming the government. Question of alliance with the MNS had not arisen as of now. But, yes we are worried about the state sponsored terrorism in the state where cases are lodged for listening to Hanuman Chalisa, the BJP is against this.”
“BJP would not go into a direct alliance with Raj Thackeray-led MNS as his party has presence in only few areas adjoining Mumbai. Raj Thackery may be a good orator, but except 2009 Assembly polls, he had not tasted any electoral success. What the BJP is looking at is having a tactical understanding with the MNS in few municipal corporations like BMC. In areas like Lalbaug, Borivali and Thane, the MNS has presence and can help the BJP by cutting the Shiv Sena’s vote bank in at least 50 wards,” another BJP leader said.
In the 2019 Assembly elections, the MNS polled only 2.25% votes and was successful in winning only one Assembly segment in the polls which saw a bipolar contest between the BJP-Shiv Sena, on one side, and the Indian National Congress (INC)-National Congress Party(NCP), on the other side. Later, the Shiv Sena joined hands with Congress-NCP as the BJP did not agree to its demand of chief ministership for half the tenure.
The political heat in Maharashtra is increasing as more than a dozen municipal corporations in the state will go for polls in the coming months, including the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the largest corporation in the country which has an annual budget of over Rs 30,000 crore. The ruling party of the state, the Shiv Sena, has been winning the BMC election since 1989. In the last BMC polls held in 2017, the Shiv Sena and BJP, who were alliance partners then under the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), had contested against each other with Shiv Sena winning 84 seats and the BJP winning 82 seats. Later, the Shiv Sena formed a government with the help of independents.