The row over the launch of former Pakistan minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri's book in Mumbai on Monday seems to have caused cracks in the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in Maharashtra, as the latter has reportedly decided to be it alone in the upcoming Kalyan-Dombivli civic polls.
The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance currently rules the Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC). However, the two parties are now contesting the 1 November civic polls as rivals. Shiv Sena is believed to contest in all 122 seats of the civic body alone, according to NDTV.
The crack in the relation between the two allies started to appear after the BJP provided high security for the launch of Kasuri's book – Neither a Hawk, Nor a Dove: An Insider Account of Pakistan's Foreign Policy – that was opposed by Shiv Sena in the wake of constant ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the border in Jammu and Kashmir.
On Monday morning, ahead of the book launch, a group of Shiv Sainiks allegedly attacked event organiser Sudheendra Kulkarni, who is also a former BJP ideologue. They allegedly called Kulkarni a deshdrohi (traitor) and smeared his face with black oil paint.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had condemned the incident, which he said has "brought a bad name to our state".
It is believed that Shiv Sena has started to feel cornered and the attack on Kulkarni was apparently a message to the BJP.
"The Sena is very agitated, irritated and cornered, and doesn't know how to tackle it," Prakash Akolkar, political editor of Sakal group and author of Sena's first Marathi biography 'Jai Maharashtra', Daily News & Analysis reported.
"This is a spillover of the strained ties between the Sena and the BJP. Blackening Sudheendra Kulkarni's face was also meant to send a strong message to the BJP. Sena's opposition to Pakistan is normal and such protests have been happening since the 1990s. However, this act is meant to convey to the BJP that the Sena is not willing to be meddled with and cornered beyond a point," DNA quoted a Sena source as saying.
Uddhav Thackeray may ask Shiv Sena ministers to quit Fadnavis' govt
Meanwhile, Uddhav Thackeray is said to ask his party members to quit the Maharashtra government owing to the differences between the allies of late. "Yes, it is very, very likely that we may sever ties with the BJP," a Sena leader told The Times of India on condition of anonymity.
Both the BJP and the Shiv Sena have blamed each other for the deteriorating relation. While the BJP has said that the present Shiv Sena leadership has a closed mind, the latter believes that its ally lacks political will to pursue the Sena's "patriotic" agenda.
"Balasaheb Thackeray was open to discussions and suggestions. He would understand the government's difficulties and would be willing, after gentle persuasion, for a climbdown... However, the present Sena leadership lacks resilience and tact. They have a closed mind," a BJP leader said.
"The BJP is behaving like Congress on Pakistan issue. The Modi government continues to hem and haw as Pakistan keeps violating the ceasefire and kills our soldiers," a senior Sena member retorted.