Mystery Meeting Between Devendra Fadnavis And Sanjay Raut Was Almost Certainly Not About Sena Returning To NDA Fold, Here’s Why
The current political compulsions of the Shiv Sena as well as the BJP will ensure that the former stays put with the Maha Vikas Aghadhi.
Recently, the editor of the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna and Rajya Sabha MP, Sanjay Raut, met the former chief minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis in a five-star hotel in Mumbai.
The meeting lasted approximately two hours and has led to much speculation. That the meeting was between the two protagonists of the power struggle that ensued after the 2019 Vidhan Sabha election results, added to the 'spice' around this meeting.
Veteran Marathi journalist Bhau Torsekar has raised some especially important points in his YouTube post about this meeting.
Fadnavis and Raut have mentioned that the meeting was to discuss the modalities for an interview to be taken for Saamna. Torsekar rubbishes the fact that a discussion about an interview would require two hours.
Sushant Singh Rajput’s family lawyer had already expressed frustration about the delay in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe about his death. He had raised an interesting possibility of the probe being derailed due to an alliance between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena.
Let us explore if such a situation is in the offing.
The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in the state is just about 11 months old and though there have been some disagreements between the three main constituents of this alliance, there are no sharp fissures in the alliance as of now. The Sena is still adjusting to the new secular setting it finds itself in.
While trying to maintain that they have not given up on Hindutva, they have taken steps like donating 35 crores for the development of the Haji Ali dargah in Mumbai, or like a Sena MP extending greetings on Tipu Sultan Jayanti, only to delete his tweets.
The Sena has lost any chance of support it had of the non-Marathi-speaking Hindu voters, predominantly in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and the Pune urban belt. Many of these voters voted for the Sena due to the alliance with the BJP, mainly to see Devendra Fadnavis as the CM again. The Sena betrayed this pro-incumbency vote by going over to the anti-Hindutva and anti-BJP camp.
Also, the stand of the Sena in the SSR case and the vendetta politics against Kangana Ranaut has ended any possibility of these voters supporting it, even if the Sena allies with the BJP. In fact, the BJP may face the brunt of its supporters if they ally with the Sena in the next elections. Many Marathi-speaking voters who support the BJP will not take kindly to such a situation.
The only option for the Sena is to consolidate its base of lower-middle class and poor Marathi speaking voters in the MMR region using emotive issues like Marathi pride. To be fair, a section of the upper-middle class Marathi speaking voters support the Sena as well, but it’s the exception rather than the norm. These are the elements supporting the Sena on social media platforms.
The Sena now has to compensate for the loss of the BJP voters by winning the Muslim voters in MMR. The Muslim vote bank constitutes approximately 15-22 per cent of the voters in the MMR. An alliance with the Congress is necessary for the Sena to win future elections like the BMC in Mumbai and TMC in Thane in 2022 as well as the Navi Mumbai and Kalyan-Dombivali municipality elections due anytime now.
Considering the above factor, the Sena is unlikely to break their current alliance with the NCP and Congress. Hence, the meeting between Fadnavis and Raut has no possibility of being about the erstwhile saffron partners re-aligning again in the state.
As Bhau Torsekar says, some political wounds are not healed easily.
The Sena did not forget the wound of 2014 when BJP became the big brother and ran the govt single-handedly for five years. They switched camps after the 2019 elections to take revenge on the latter.
Similarly, Sena leaders and Saamna targeted Home Minister Amit Shah and Fadnavis and called them all kinds of things including 'liars'. The BJP is not going to forget that in a hurry, so the chance of alliance happening is dim.
Also, the BJP would not want the horrendous anti-incumbency against the Sena on pathetic COVID handling, Maratha agitation and farmer distress (due to floods) to stick to it.
Then why did this out of turn meeting between Raut and Fadnavis happen?
Why did Raut have to come to meet Fadnavis, when he had no face to show after abusing Fadnavis viciously?
Bhau Torsekar thinks that it could be a delicate matter for which they wanted someone to approach Modi/ Shah on their behalf. Raut wanted to check if Fadnavis could be that emissary.
Could it be a request to go slow in the current NCB/CBI/NIA joint probe in the Sushant Rajput death and the resulting drugs case? Does the regional dynastic party want to save its future?
There is an important lesson for political leaders here to not burn your bridges, and then risk humiliation in trying to seek a favour from your former ally.
This is also Modi-Shah’s moment of truth if the above speculations are true: whether they decide to let justice prevail or do a political compromise.
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