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BJP drives a wedge between SS and MNS

The Fadnavis-mediated talks between MNS president Raj Thackeray and Karan Johar after the producers gave in to the MNS demand not to cast Pakistan artistes in future and to pay Rs 5 crore as ‘prayashchit’ (penance) to the Army welfare fund made Raj look like a hero, while his cousin Udhav as a mere disruptor.
Raj Thackeray

The BJP seems to be promoting MNS versus the Shiv Sena to take the wind out of the latter’s sail in state politics. At stake is the control of Rs 42,crore Mumbai Municipal Corporation and BJP’s second bid for national and state power in 2019 elections.

Within hours of Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray attacking the BJP in Goa and calling it power-hungry, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis “intervened” in Mumbai on Saturday to end the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s agitation over Karan Johar’s movie Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM). While doing so, he ensured that the younger Thackeray gets the best of political mileage and media coverage.

The Fadnavis-mediated talks between MNS president Raj Thackeray and Karan Johar after the producers gave in to the MNS demand not to cast Pakistan artistes in future and to pay Rs 5 crore as ‘prayashchit’ (penance) to the Army welfare fund made Raj look like a hero, while his cousin Udhav as a mere disruptor.

Like SS founder Bal Thackeray, Raj is fond of Bollywood and has more personal friends (including the Khan troika) there than in the political arena. So there was much at stake for him if he did not accept the deal. By making the deal with him, Fadnavis has ensured Raj’s personal gratitude that may be of great value in the upcoming Mumbai Municipal election which has pitted the ruling BJP against its alliance partner Shiv Sena.

Though the BJP and Shiv Sena have been sharing power, the latter has become one of the most bitter critics of the BJP. The Sena’s effort is to claim the opposition space too, thanks to the ineffective NCP and lackluster Congress. The Sena thinks that by doing this, it can insulate itself from the anti-incumbency that comes with power. But its ‘have-the-cake-and-eat-it-too’ approach has irked and humiliated the BJP.

Consequently, there is a growing body of opinion in the BJP that until it cuts the Sena to size in the Mumbai corporation, it cannot reign over all of Maharashtra. A few months from now, the richest municipal corporation in the country will go to polls. The BJP found in ADHM and MNS the much-awaited opportunity to end Sena’s two-decade old hegemony over the Rs 42,000-crore municipal corporation. Mumbai is crucial to BJP but it’s more than a lifeline for the Sena. And so, if the SS is uprooted here, it may lose the wherewithal to sustain itself as a party.

Besides money, the significance of Mumbai metropolitan region lies in the fact that it sends as many as 60 MLAs to the 288-member state legislature and 11 MPs to Parliament out of the 48 from Maharashtra. And to win in Mumbai, the BJP needs an ally that can counter SS in terms of muscle and ideological power. Because alone, the BJP can’t counter the SS, so it’s leaning on the MNS and vice versa

Fully aware of BJP’s gameplan, the Sena has been dangerously raising its pitch against the BJP. Not a day passes without the Sena verbally attacking the BJP. It’s just getting bitter and foul in the run up to the approaching elections.

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