Chhatrapati Shivaji Memorial – The Thackeray dilemma

Chhatrapati Shivaji Memorial – The Thackeray dilemma

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s scheduled inauguration of the foundation stone laying ceremony for the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial in the Arabian Sea on 24 December, has been garnering interest from unexpected quarters, mostly political in nature. Would Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray attend the event? Ever since their break up of BJP-ShivSena alliance, both parties have been at loggerheads, more so Shiv Sena, which, through its mouthpiece ‘Saamna’, doesn’t miss an opportunity to fire insinuations against its bossom buddy-turned-soft rival, BJP. Latest tussle seems to be the inaugural function of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial to be held on 24th December.

In the wake of upcoming BMC (BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation) elections, both friends-turned-foes are willing to become foes-turned-friends, to implement the all-weather favorite political formula of seat sharing. It is this tacit understanding which created ripples in political circles as to whether Uddhav Thackrey would honor the invitation of Chief Minister Fadnavis. Ok, the inaugural function could pave way to seat sharing in a city’s mere municipal election. So what? Here comes the deal breaker. BMC is unlike any other municipal corporation in India, for that matter in the world. BMC is the richest civic body in entire Asian continent, in fact richer than many smaller Indian states combined. Here are some budget numbers. It presented budget estimates of Rs. 27,578 crores for 2013-14, Rs. 31,178 crores for 2014-15, Rs.33, 514 crores for 2015-16 and a latest budget of Rs. 37,052 crores for the year 2016-17, up by 10.5% from prior year. These magnanimous numbers are sufficient to attract a lot of political fish. Let’s look at the political stakes and the fall outs of each of these parties.

Ever since their breakup, after being relegated to an insignificant second, Shiv Sena has lost its political sheen, what made matters worse were it continual tirade of attacks towards all the schemes implemented by the BJP. Things took an ugly turn when BJP started ignoring Sena and all its overtures and threats. By refusing to attend the functions on previous occasions unless he would be seated next to Modi, Uddhav is only exposing his desperation for relevance. With Shiv Sena currently holding majority in BMC in terms of the number of corporators, and bagging the prestigious mayor seat, it is only fair to assume it would make desperate attempts to keep the majority, if not improve on it.

‘Big bother’ BJP has a bigger stake in this. These are major elections after Fadnavis took over as Chief Ministerial baton. He needs to prove to his high command, that he not just holds a clean political profile (which is one reason why he was handpicked as CM), but also can handle the administrative and political responsibilities which come with it. As far as the party is concerned, since the promised 50 days aren’t over yet, demonetization is still more of a liability for the party. Modi is and will be on tenterhooks and would have the sword of Damocles hanging over his head until the implementation has been deemed successful. Regardless, demonetization is a monkey BJP needs to get off of its back. BJP has a bigger stake, since it needs to prove it’s the ‘bade bhai’ it claims to be, by winning a comfortable majority. This is exactly where seat sharing gets trickier and spicier.

With such high stakes, one can expect a titanomachy, both within and outside the alliance.

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