After chief minister Devendra Fadnavis revived efforts on Thursday to reach out to the Sena and make it a part of his government, Gadkari reportedly swung into the act and tried impressing on the Sangh that an outreach was “undesirable”.
However, with the Sangh in favour of resurrecting the alliance, Gadkari said if that were to happen, the BJP would have to unambiguously tell Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray that it would henceforth be the “senior” partner in elections, including civic polls where the Sena always had the upper hand.
Gadkari also stressed that instead of “even giving a second thought” to the Sena’s demand for portfolios like power, irrigation and urban planning and development, the party should be told that it could expect to get only home.
Gadkari also told the RSS and his “pro-Sena” BJP associates that once in power, the Sena would go back to its “old” ways of forcing extortions and harassing traders and businessmen. “This could impair the government’s image,” he reportedly cautioned.
Shah, the BJP president, reportedly shared Gadkari’s views on handling the Sena.
“It was Shah’s decision to break the age-old alliance on (the Assembly) election-eve. He took a huge risk. He was also prepared to take the rap in case the BJP lost. We did not. Instead, we defeated the Sena in several of its strong seats, including in Mumbai,” a source said.
He added that although the Sena may currently be the bigger partner in the prestigious Brihanmumbai and Thane municipal corporations, it should prepare for a “role reversal” because the BJP had gained seats in these places.
The Sena traditionally derived its clout by controlling the civic bodies. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is regarded the world’s second wealthiest civic body, after the one in London.
Shah felt having “more than proved a point” in last month’s Assembly polls by ensuring the Sena came a distant second, the BJP must consolidate and expand its base so that it did not require a political crutch in the future.
Barring Shah and Gadkari, other BJP leaders including Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj were on the Sangh’s wavelength and favoured having the Sena back on board.
“They too felt that the Sena was a more dependable ally than the NCP (which is learnt to have supported the Fadnavis government in the disputed floor test on November 12). Also, the RSS thinks the pro-Hindutva constituency must not be divided. It sends the wrong signal at this juncture when Hindus voted overwhelmingly for (Narendra) Modi. To a large extent, the people of Maharashtra also subscribe to this sentiment,” a source said.
But, with the RSS still keen on reviving ties with the Sena, BJP sources said they had “no choice” but to make up.