As far as friendly fires go, the Shiv Sena’s attacks targeting its ally BJP have been quite lethal even in the best of times. Now that the regional party has garnered a respectable number of seats in the Maharashtra Assembly elections, it has upped the ante to demand its pound of flesh. What has made the coalition arrangement shaky is its demand for Chief Minister’s post on a rotation basis, citing a “50-50” power-sharing formula. With the BJP firmly rejecting the formulation, the stage appears to be set for an intense power struggle leading to political instability, akin to the unseemly drama witnessed in Karnataka recently involving the Congress-JD (S) coalition. Never known for subtlety in its dealings, the Shiv Sena has been giving pinpricks for the BJP leadership and criticising the Central government on myriad issues, particularly on Ayodhya, economy and rural distress. The BJP’s below-par performance in Maharashtra and Haryana Assembly elections has resulted in a shift in power dynamics and made the saffron party more vulnerable to the demands from the current and potential allies. The Maharashtra muddle may well prove to be an acid test for Amit Shah’s persuasive skills to rein in the cantankerous junior partner. The prospect of the Shiv Sena aligning with the Congress-NCP to grab the Chief Minister’s post might appear highly improbable but the party has dropped such a hint only to gain an upper hand in the power-sharing negotiations. It must be pointed out that the Sena had agreed to contest fewer seats than the BJP in the seat-sharing deal ahead of the elections, thereby implicitly accepting that it was a junior partner in the State.
The increasingly shrill pitch of the Sena can be attributed to its better-than-expected performance in the polls. The BJP is the single largest party with 105 seats in the 288-member Assembly, as against 122 in the previous House, but is 40 MLAs short of the majority mark. The Sena has emerged as the second largest party with 56 seats. Together, they have a majority but are currently locked in a tussle over the Chief Minister’s post. The Sena wants a rotational arrangement, where leaders of both parties occupy the position for half the Assembly’s term each. The BJP wants to keep the State’s leadership all through, a position made clear by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself soon after the declaration of results. The Sena, which was a senior partner in the alliance prior to 2014, has been unable to come to terms with the rise of BJP in the State. The latest verdict has, however, given hopes for it to renegotiate the terms of the power-sharing agreement. The bickering between the two parties must end in the interests of the development of the State.