The far-right regional political party Shiv Sena may soon cut ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party, according to a Times Of India report. The TOI report quoted anonymous sources to suggest that Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray might "soon ask the party's ministers in the Fadnavis government to quit their offices."
"Yes, it is very, very likely that we may sever ties with the BJP," a key Sena leader apparently told TOI soon after former Pakistani minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri's book was launched in Mumbai, despite Sena's stiff opposition to the event.
To add insult to injury, Mumbai police on Monday arrested six Shiv Sena workers for allegedly smearing the event organiser Sudheendra Kulkarni's face with ink. These include Gajanan Patil, Dinesh Prasad, Ashok Waghmare, Prakash husbe, Samadhan Jugdhav and Venkatesh Nair, reported TOI.
The attack on Kulkarni took place despite the fact that he met with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday evening prior to the event, seeking his cooperation. Kulkarni has in the past been a BJP member for 14 years, working closely with former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his deputy L K Advani.
According to the report, members of both Shiv Sena and the BJP are increasingly having problems working together in the Maharashtra government. While the Sena leadership seems to feel that BJP's popularity in Maharashtra has diminished, which may hamper the Sena's performance in the upcoming civic polls, the BJP in turn is having trouble with the Sena's high-handedness.
A senior BJP functionary apparently told TOI that, unlike under the leadership of Balasaheb, the new Sena was unwilling to negotiate and work with the state government. The report suggested that increasing rifts in ideology and lack of support from the BJP in key issues for the Sena — known for its Hindu national agenda — had deepened the divide between the two parties. Sticky issues, both locally and nationally, like the alleged lack of a proper aid package for drought-hit Maharashtra as well as India's response to repeated ceasefire violations by Pakistan at the border has not sat well with the regional party, according to the report.
In the past few months, the Sena has been vocal in its stance against the Land Acquisition Bill, which is one of Prime Minister Modi's pet projects and an issue that BJP desperately needs support for, especially from its allies like the Sena.