Ahead of the government formation in Maharashtra which got a fractured mandate in the recent assembly elections, the Shiv Sena appeared to soften its stance vis-a-vis the BJP and the chief ministerial choice.
The party indicated its willingness to support “anybody” from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as the state chief minister who would work towards the unity, integrity and development of Maharashtra.
The party noted and acknowledged the BJP’s performance in the polls: “We are happy at the BJP’s win…Even the Shiv Sena secured big wins in Konkan, Marathwada, north Maharashtra and other places for which we are thankful to the voters.”
In an editorial in the party mouthpiece ‘Saamana’, the Shiv Sena clearly distanced itself from the ongoing manipulations within the BJP, saying the party won in Maharashtra only because of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah.
“There are many contenders in the BJP for the post of the chief minister, but only Modi and Shah will decide. We don’t want Maharashtra to be divided on caste and regional lines and the new chief minister must ensure this and preserve the Marathi pride,” it urged.
The editorial pointed out that the Shiv Sena’s contributions for Hindutva in Mumbai and Maharashtra remain unmatched.
“We supported all Hindus, irrespective of caste – whether they are Gujaratis, Rajasthanis, Marwaris, Jain, Sindhis or north Indians. We always gave them our love and affection. But the manner in which the votes fell (in the assembly polls), we have to accept that caste-religion manipulations do exist,” it said.
On the prospects of the next state chief minister, the Shiv Sena adopted a neutral stand while highlighting the qualities of some of the major BJP contenders.
“BJP leader Nitin Gadkari is a well-experienced administrator, he has a vision for development, and he is handling crucial responsibilities at the Centre. Will Modi relieve him? Devendra Fadnavis has good knowledge of legislative matters but lacks administrative experience,” it said about the two prime BJP front-runners.
On the other hand, Eknath Khadse and his supporters feel that the chief minister’s post should go to north Maharashtra this time.
“We (Shiv Sena) had supported Pratibha Patil as the President, but our BJP friends did not like it…Even Pankaja Munde (of Marathwada) wants to be the chief minister…And there are other names like Vinod Tawde, Prakash Javadekar…If this is going to be decided by New Delhi, then what is the point of state leaders discussing it?…It will be either Fadnavis or Gadkari,” it said.
The Shiv Sena pointed out that on Bhai-Dooj day, Fadnavis went to seek Gadkari’s blessings, the next day Gadkari went to seek Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s blessings.
“All such blessings can help, but ultimately, the peoples’ blessings are invaluable,” the editorial pointed out.
“We shall support anybody who takes the state forward…Some people are spreading canards about the Shiv Sena right now…Don’t poke the Tiger,” it concluded with a warning at detractors.