The BJP’s decision to give up the chief minister’s chair in Maharashtra despite having more than a hundred MLAs in the assembly is a masterstroke of only ace politicians like Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. The BJP and the Shiv Sena, both driven by the Hindutva ideology, vied for the same vote bank in Maharashtra. The growth of the BJP in the state has been stymied for decades by the belligerent Sena which still controls the streets and a large chunk of the Hindutva votes. The BJP stayed in an alliance with the Sena as a junior partner. But the death of Sena’s fiery patriarch Balasaheb Thackeray and the ascension of his mild-mannered, moderate son, Uddhav Thackeray,
The BJP refused to play junior partner to the Sena and demanded the chief minister’s chair after winning the last assembly election. Refusing to compromise, Uddhav dumped the decades-old ally to join hands with the Sena’s ideological opponents and arch enemies—Congress and its splinter Nationalist Congress Party—to head a coalition government. Uddhav’s ideological compromise did not go down well with the party’s cadre. It bred disquiet within the ranks. The BJP was quick to read the situation and moved in for the kill. At the core of the BJP’s coup is the 2024 Lok Sabha election. The BJP leadership did not want to fight a united Shiv Sena-Congress-NCP front in the next general election.
The presence of a strong Shiv Sena against it would have blunted the BJP’s Hindutva campaign and divided its core votes. The loss of Maharashtra would have depleted the NDA numbers. So, the BJP lost no time in exploiting the growing schism in the Sena and effected a clean split in the latter’s legislature party. The masterstroke, however, was making the rebel Sena group’s leader, Eknath Shinde, the chief minister. It was aimed at offering the rebels the lure of office and power to encourage them to wrest control of the Sena cadres. The idea is to isolate the Thackeray family and make it impossible for it to rise again.