BJP vs Shiv Sena: The 'bypoll' power play

The political game between the two parties intensifies ahead of Palghar bypoll elections

BJP vs Shiv Sena: The 'bypoll' power play

In electoral politics, the political relations between the players doesn’t necessarily revolve around their political ideologies or philosophies, but it is centred around power and survival. Under a democratic system, the elections are supposed to be a “fair” selection of people’s representative. Unfortunately, the election process is rarely fair in a market society. In the present Indian context, the ruling party is propagating its Hindutva ideology which disrupts the communal harmony of the country. However, ideally, the democratic processes need to be secular in nature and the campaigns shall be oriented on addressing people issues. 

Ahead of the Maharashtra Elections in 2019, there have been notable developments in the state’s politics with senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Chhagan Bhujbal out on bail in connection with the money laundering case and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s outrage against the proposed bullet train project. However, the major focus is on the harsh political brawl between the most influential regional and national party in India. Shiv Sena and BJP have formed a government together in Maharashtra but in current scenario, both have turned against each other. 

With Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s statements against Shiv Sena at a rally in Virar, the relation between the two political parties has taken an interesting turn with the declaration of a clear electoral battle between both parties. 

While campaigning for Palghar Lok Sabha bypolls due on May 28, Yogi lashed out at Shiv Sena for betraying BJP and called Shiv Sena a ‘Gunda’ (thug) party. Earlier, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis also called out Shiv Sena and labelled the party as “dishonest”.

As a sizeable number of North Indians live in areas outside Mumbai including Virar, Palghar, Boisar, the BJP called Yogi to campaign. Accusing Shiv Sena of hooliganism, Yogi said that “Don’t fear anyone,” adding that “If the troublemakers in UP can be mended, it can happen here too.” Asking people to vote for BJP, Yogi mentioned that “the BJP will take strong action against goons who bother commoners.”

Why did this happen?

These remarks came after Shiv Sena fielded late BJP MP Chintaman Vanga’s son, Shrinivas Vanga. Shiv Sena claimed that after the death of Vanga in January this year, the BJP neglected his family and chose an ex-congressmen Rajendra Gavit to contest for the Lok Sabha seat here. While campaigning for the bypoll, both Shiv Sena and BJP have made Vanga’s death their political propaganda to lure voters. 

Targeting Shiv Sena, UP CM said that “Shiv Sena unnecessarily interfered in our party’s matter and has betrayed us,” adding, “if Balasaheb Thackeray was alive, he would have been disappointed. Bal Thackeray did not backstab and betrayed anyone but the Shiv Sena has stabbed us in the back now,” he further asserted. 

With its ideology of the “sons of the soil”, Shiv Sena lures its voters on the basis of the language and the Maratha ruler Shivaji. Yogi attacked Shiv Sena and said that Shivaji is not the property of one party. When Shivaji was crowned as the emperor of Maratha Empire, a pandit from Varanasi conducted the ceremony. Comparing Shiv Sena to Afzal Khan, Yogi asserted that “Those who divide Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra cannot be country’s friend.”

Chintaman’s Legacy - a tribute or propaganda?  

Vanga worked for the development of Palghar district trying to ease the connection between Mumbai and Palghar for the tribal. With his clean image, he was considered as the tribal face of the BJP. A lawyer by profession, Vanga handled the case of poor people without charging any fee and always stood for the issues related to tribals and fishermen. He was elected in Lok Sabha for three times - in 1996, 1999, and 2014 - until he died. 

It is appalling that Yogi and other BJP leaders fondly narrated his legacy, appealing the people to vote for BJP in Vanga’s name, on Wednesday but never spoke a word about the tribals living in the Thane-Palghar belt. 

Yogi appealed to people to vote for BJP candidate Rajendra Gavit. He said, "that we have to carry forward legacy of Chintaman Vanga who was a very simple man and dedicated BJP worker.”

Why focus so much on by-elections?

Although, the BJP has made this fight about Shiv Sena betraying its party there are more reasons for BJP to pay strong attention to the Lok Sabha bypoll. After the fall of a two-day rule of Yeddyurappa in Karnataka, the social media was triggered with discussions regarding the majority count of the BJP in Lok Sabha. Earlier in May 2019, BJP came into power and formed a majority government with 282 Lok Sabha members. 

However, since then the BJP has lost in six by-elections. BJP lost the Lok Sabha bypolls in Rajasthan’s Ajmer and Alwar followed by Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur and Phulpur, Punjab’s Gurdaspur, and Madhya Pradesh’s Ratlam. Of the 543 seats in the Lower House, BJP holds only 274. 

BJP has managed to form the government in 21 states solely or with alliance but has lost Lok Sabha bypolls because of its sheer negligence towards people’s issues. In UP, the seats lost by the BJP belonged to CM Yogi and Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya and with this, BJP can’t afford to be arrogant anymore. 

Therefore, it has become important for the BJP to have a tight grip over the upcoming Lok Sabha bypolls in UP’s Kairana, Nagaland followed by Maharashtra’s Palghar and Bhandara-Gondiya - or else the BJP might lose its majority in the Lok Sabha.

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