BJP-Shiv Sena ties on the verge of split

BJP-Shiv Sena ties on the verge of split

Shiv Sena and BJP today appeared to be on the verge of parting ways in the wake of spat over Cabinet expansion at the Centre and failure to accomodate the Sena in Maharashtra government in Mumbai.

Sena MP Anil Desai not taking oath as Union Minister today and the induction of Suresh Prabhu, who had been in the Shiv Sena as Cabinet Minister, came as a climax to the growing chasm between the friends-turned-foes.

The simmering tension between them came to a boil today as Desai left for Mumbai from Delhi airport without attending the swearing-in ceremony.

Desai returned to Mumbai on orders of Sena supremo Uddhav Thackaray whose party accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi as also the BJP of a host of broken promises and heaping "humiliation after humiliation" on it.

Union Minister Anant Geete is the lone Shiv Sena representative in the Union Cabinet and the developments could culminate in his being asked by the Sena leadership to quit the government.

"How much more humiliation we can take?" remarked senior Sena MP Chandrakant Khaire, who had accompanied Desai to Delhi when he rushed to the National Capital for taking oath.

The talk that Uddhav Thackeray will pull the party out of the government at the Centre and play Opposition in Maharashtra has gained ground ahead of a crucial meeting in Mumbai of the Sena chief with party legislators.

"As things stand now, there is remote possibility of Sena being part of NDA or of the BJP government in Maharashtra," a senior Sena leader said.

What added fuel to the fire was the induction of Suresh Prabhu as Cabinet Minister as Prabhu had been with the Sena.

"Shiv Sena is angry. Whether it is PM or Amit Shah, they had no business to take Suresh Prabhu's name (as Shiv Sena representative for the Cabinet post)", said Khaire.

In an obvious attack on the Prime Minister, the Sena MP recalled that the late Bal Thackeray along with BJP leader Pramod Mahajan formed the alliance with the help of L K Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

"Today we are being said they are everything. We have power. This does not continue for long," he said.

Sena leaders said that BJP had promised Cabinet berth to the Sena representative but later on said that they could only give a Minister of State position.

This was inspite of the fact that there had been back channel talks between the two parties which were intensified yesterday to remove last minute hitches.

Sena leaders said that the refusal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to meet Union Minister and Sena leader Anant Geete last night was a snub to Sena and was indicative of the mind of the BJP leadership of not being sincere in carrying along the ally.

BJP, on its part, said it had invited the Shiv Sena for the oath-taking of Ministers in the expansion and it was upto the Sena to explain why they chose not to attend it.

BJP national secretary Shrikant Sharma said the party is serious about its alliance partners and took all of them together when the NDA government was formed at a time when BJP had a majority of its own.

"We are serious about the alliance. Even when we had 282 MPs in the Lok Sabha, we still accommodated our alliance partners in the Cabinet and formed an NDA government.

"BJP had invited the Shiv Sena for the Cabinet expansion today. It is upto the Shiv Sena to explain why they chose not to be a part of it," Sharma told PTI.

Geete had said yesterday that it was not clear if Sena would be part of the ministry expansion but this morning there were enough hints from the party that Desai will be taking oath and had left Mumbai to attend the swearing-in ceremony.

Sena wanted the BJP to sort out unresolved issues over it joining the Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra first.

As things have now turned out, Sena leaders feel that their continued association with the BJP was becoming untenable as the ruling party at the Centre was deliberately dilly-dallying on their demands for ministerial berths in Maharashtra.

The development has taken place at a time a three-day special session of the state Assembly will begin in Mumbai tomorrow, during which Fadnavis will seek a trust vote on November 12.

Shiv Sena has been the oldest ideological ally of the BJP in the NDA but their 25-year-old alliance in Maharashtra collapsed ahead of the recent assembly polls over seat-sharing issue.

BJP has 121 MLAs in the 288-member House and the 41-member NCP has assured its outside support to the new government.

As a result, the party led by Uddhav Thackeray, which has 63 MLAs, is likely to sit in the opposition unless there is a last-minute "respectable" offer from the BJP.

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