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In Ram Nath Kovind's Win, Shiv Sena Gets a Message from BJP

Artist Jagjot Singh Rubal finishing his painting of the newly elected President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, at his home studio in Amritsar on Thursday. (Image: PTI)

Artist Jagjot Singh Rubal finishing his painting of the newly elected President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, at his home studio in Amritsar on Thursday. (Image: PTI)

The outcome of the presidential elections in itself is a powerful political statement by the BJP and a strong message to Shiv Sena, with which it has not been on great terms.

New Delhi: In Ram Nath Kovind’s victory, BJP has successfully sent its first card holder to the Rashtrapati Bhawan and a strong political message to its oldest NDA ally — Shiv Sena.

The BJP has been able to win almost two dozen extra votes in Maharashtra. That is over and above 63 of the ally Shiv Sena. If you add these votes to the BJP’s own strength of 122 in the Assembly, the party crosses the half way mark in the House of 288 MLAs.

Presidential polls are conducted under a secret ballot for which no whips are issued by parties. It would probably never be known in Maharashtra’s fractured polity who voted for whom. Whether Congress or NCP legislatures crossed fence to vote for Kovind. But the larger political message and the writing on the wall for Shiv Sena is clear — that if need be, Devendra Fadnavis government can survive without the crutches of Shiv Sena’s 63 MLAs.

Interestingly, in a reversal of sorts, it is Shiv Sena which is now more dependent on the BJP for maintaining its grip on the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation or the BMC.

The outcome of the presidential polls in itself is a powerful political statement by the BJP and a strong message to the Shiv Sena, with which it has not been on great terms.

The two parties had a bitter break-up just before the last Assembly polls, but joined hands again to form the government. Sena, however, had to settle as a minor partner in the alliance.

Earlier this year, BJP made strong inroads into Shiv Sena bastion in Mumbai when it decided to go solo in the BMC polls. Shiv Sena now is entirely dependent on the BJP for its survival in the richest municipal corporation of the country.

Even during the presidential polls, while all the other allies authorised Prime Minister Narendra Modi to nominate the NDA candidate, Shiv Sena sought to know the name of the BJP pick before extending its support. This despite BJP President Amit Shah’s visit to Matoshree to meet Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. To rub it in, Shiv Sena initially floated the name of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and then reputed scientist MS Swaminathan.

Cross voting in neighbouring Gujarat is also indicative of political churning in the poll-bound state. About 11 Opposition MLAs are reported to have broken ranks. All are said to be Shankarsinh Vaghela supporters.

The former Gujarat CM has dropped enough hints in the last six months that he wants to be Congress’s face in upcoming Assembly polls. But the question is if Congress doesn’t concede, what will Bapu do? He called a meeting of his supporters in Ahmedabad on Friday to decide the next course of action.

Through this cross voting, Vaghela has conveyed to the Congress that if this group of eleven vote against the Congress in the upcoming Rajya Sabha polls, BJP will win all three seats.

Stakes are high. Of the three seats up for grabs, one has been held for years now by Ahmed Patel, Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s closest aide.

first published:July 20, 2017, 18:56 IST