Differences of opinion between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its oldest NDA ally Shiv Sena have remained a talking point and the Maharashtra-based party’s decision to hold its party MPs from voting in favour of the Narendra Modi government during the no-confidence motion has fired talks that the ties may collapse soon. BJP has even started preparing to “contest elections alone”.
A day before the no-confidence motion was taken up, the Shiv Sena said that it had decided to support the government in the vote.
The party’s stand came after party chief Amit Shah’s call to Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray, sources said.
However, a day later, the Sena changed its stand and decided to abstain from voting. Though the party’s abstention did not make much of a difference to the Modi government which won the trust vote decisively, the snub that it managed to deliver was apparent. Opposition leaders tried to embarrass the BJP saying its own alliance was not in order.
BJP chief Amit Shah has now set about on a task to strengthen its cadre in Maharashtra, which offers 48 Lok Sabha seats. The BJP president has held closed-door assessment meeting of senior party leaders in Mumbai during his visit to the state capital on Sunday.
“The national president plainly stated that the strategy has to be implemented in all the Lok Sabha and Assembly seats in the state. At present, the BJP shares its political space with the Shiv Sena and a couple of smaller allies. It is a message that says ‘prepare for contesting elections alone’. We will have to rush as the general election are now less than a year away,” a senior leader was quoted as saying by PTI.
Maharashtra is a politically crucial state and offers the most seats after Uttar Pradesh. In 2014, while BJP had won 23 seats, Shiv Sena bagged 18 constituencies. BJP knows the importance of these 48 seats. At the meeting, Shah laid down a 23-point working strategy and discussed issues such as increasing the party strength, addressing new voters’ groups based on their profession, gender, likings etc and a regular follow up of the voters by the local party workers, according to report.
Apart from meeting the ‘Vistaraks’ of the party whose mandate is to increase the network of the BJP in different geographies, Shah also interacted with the members of the ‘Lok Sabha Toli’, a group that consists of Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, state unit chief Raosaheb Danve, Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, ministers Sudhir Mungantiwar, Chandrakant Patil and Pankaja Munde, and Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar, among others.
“The mandate of the group is to identify weaknesses of the party in certain areas, (ways) to overcome them and the current key issues related to the people of Maharashtra. The candidates who had contested and won the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and the current image of the candidates in the same constituency was also discussed at the general-level in this meeting,” the BJP official told PTI.
Shah left for the party’s “Sampark Abhiyan” under which he met Mangeshkar (88). He was accompanied by Fadnavis, Danve and Shelar to Mangeshkar’s house. Shah presented the Bharat Ratna awardee with a booklet on the achievements of the Narendra Modi government in the last four years.