Days after the Shiv Sena decided to join hands with the BJP for the upcoming Lok Sabha and assembly polls, putting aside its earlier resolution to contest elections independently, cracks have appeared in the alliance.
Shiv Sena leader and minister of state for animal husbandry and fisheries Arjun Khotkar has announced that he will contest the Jalna Lok Sabha seat against Maharashtra BJP chief Raosaheb Danve, who is the sitting MP. While Khotkar is a three-time MLA from Jalna, in the last Lok Sabha election, Danve won the seat for the fourth time
Significantly, Khotkar’s announcement has come at a time when Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has said his party will work with the BJP, setting aside all differences. Khotkar, whose animosity towards Danve is well known, has been planning to contest the Lok Sabha seat for the past two years to end the BJP leader’s one-upmanship in the region. Clearly, it is a fight for individual prestige
But the fight between Danve and Khotkar is by no means an isolated case. In Thane, 22 BJP councillors have written to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, opposing the candidature of sitting MP Rajan Vichare of the Sena.
However, a source says the rebellion has been engineered by Sena leader and PWD minister Eknath Shinde, who wants son Shrikant, currently the Kalyan MP, to replace Vichare. In Aurangabad, local BJP workers have expressed their reservations about sitting MP Chandrakant Khaire of the Sena.
In Chandrapur, Sena MLA Suresh Dhanorkar has announced that he will work against the BJP if Union minister Hansraj Ahir is given a ticket to contest polls. In Mumbai northeast, BJP MP Kirit Somaiya is facing opposition from Sena workers
Since 1989, the two parties have been fighting elections together, and the Shiv Sena, having played the dominant role in the alliance for many years in the state, has been critical of the BJP after it came to power in the assembly as the single largest party in 2014. Reflecting the mood, a Sena leader says his party workers are in no mood to allow the BJP to dominate the alliance
The senior leadership of both parties is trying to resolve the most contentious issues for their respective cadres and local leaders. Uddhav, for instance, has warned the cadres that the party will not contest the seats that witness infighting in the alliance. Danve, on his part, had asked Khotkar’s close friend in the BJP, cooperatives minister Subhash Deshmukh, to pacify him. Later, Khotkar also said he will abide by the decision of his party chief.
There are also MPs like Rahul Shewale (Shiv Sena) and Poonam Mahajan (BJP), who are confident of winning the support of workers of both the parties. Excise minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule makes light of the tug of war: “I see no reason for the clashes.”