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RSS intervenes to bring warring BJP and Shiv Sena together

Mumbai, Shailendra Paranjpe/Dhaval Kulkarni: After BJP and Shiv Sena failed to strike a post-poll alliance and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis announcing that BJP would not hold any talks with Sena, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat has taken a lead to bring the two warring sides together. Bhagwat has called up Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and reportedly expressed the need to convince Shiv Sena to become part of the BJP-led state government. Intrestingly, Fadnavis too was in Nagpur on Sunday where RSS has its headquarters at Reshimbagh. Even though both the sides are tight lipped, source told dna that Bhagwat has talked to Thackeray over phone more than once in last fifteen days.

RSS intervenes to bring warring BJP and Shiv Sena together

What prompted Bhagwat to take this initiative?

Though no party got clear majority, both Sena and BJP failed to strike a post-poll alliance. On the other hand, leaders of both parties of late have been critical of each other. Thus RSS chief had to intervene and play the role of a troubleshooter.

Why did BJP and Sena fail to strike post-poll alliance?

Shiv Sena was always the Big Brother of the alliance in the state for last 25 years. However, not only did the two parties contested separately this time, BJP won double the number of seats than Sena. Moreover, BJP also won 15 seats in Mumbai, the Sena’s stronghold. This hurt Shiv Sena’s ego on one hand, and on the other with more number of seats in its kitty led to high-handedness by BJP state leadership. That is the reason why BJP chief Amit Shah had called up Uddhav asking him to attend Fadnavis’ oath taking ceremony.

What did Bhagwat do?

Against the backdrop of public opinion largely building up against the saffron parties, Bhagwat has opened up an alternative channel for talks. Insiders told dna that he has been in touch with Uddhav for last fortnight. Bhagwat has had a talk with Uddhav more than once as Fadnavis is all set to expand his cabinet by the month end. Before that Bhagwat wants to meet Uddhav and take the issue to its logical end. It is believed that Bhagwat has expressed the need for Sena and BJP to come together. It is likely that Bhagwat would meet Uddhav on Monday.

What BJP or Government has to say on this development?

When media persons approached minister for higher and technical education Vinod Tawade refused to comment on this issue. When asked about the possible cabinet expansion, he said it would be difficult to run both the Houses during the winter session with only ten ministers. He said in all likelihood Fadnavis would go for cabinet expansion between November 25 and 30 before the Winter Session which would be held at Nagpur from December 8. Tawade said BJP wants to have Sena in its cabinet. He also said BJP wanted to satisfy all its small alliance partners as well.

Is there any confirmation from Sena side on this development?

No. When contacted by dna, Sena leader Sanjay Raut did not respond to either the phone call or SMS. Another Sena leader said on the condition of anonymity that they came to know about the development through television, and therefore would not be able to confirm it.

What about Sena’s participation in the NDA government?

Anant Geete, the Shiv Sena’s lone minister in the Modi government, said the two parties had differing stances in the state and the Centre and “since they (Sena and BJP) had fought the polls together as part of the NDA,” he was in the cabinet.

Uddhav Thackeray would take a stance on him continuing in his post, said Geete, while refusing to comment on the overtures by the RSS to his party. Shiv Sena sources maintained that these efforts were part of the Sangh Parivar’s efforts to keep the strength of political Hindutva intact. A section of BJP leaders is also uneasy at taking help from the NCP to prop up its minority government as this would alienate a part of the BJP’s core vote base. Incidentally, Uddhav had refrained from calling off the alliance with the BJP on grounds that he did not want to fracture the forces of Hindutva at a time when “anti-Hindu” elements had made inroads into the state as was evidenced by the assembly results.

What is the role of NCP in the entire issue?

Initially, the NCP extended unconditional support to BJP to form a stable government in the state as it was short of numbers. However, later it said the support would be conditional. Fadnavis on November 12 proved the majority on the floor of the House. Criticising BJP for the manner in which trust vote was won, former deputy chief minister and NCP leader Ajit Pawar said on Saturday in Pune that the party would rethink on supporting the government if confidence motion is brought again.