The BJP was biding for time and wanted to take revenge to destroy the Shiv Sena. So when the stir against the Agnipath policy was at its peak, it engineered a revolt within the Shiv Sena, catching the leadership of the latter by complete surprise, observes Soroor Ahmed.

Even as the country was yet to recover from the aftermath of the violent protests over Agnipath policy, two quick developments took place which apparently appeared unrelated. But a close study would reveal that they were all link of the same chain.

The revolt in Shiv Sena and the announcement of former Governor of Jharkhand, Draupadi Murmu, as the Presidential candidate of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance on June 21 were the results of a plan to take the opposition off-guard. The opposition had just hours before it made former Union Minister, Yashwant Sinha, the Presidential candidate.

The post-June 14 rioting and arson by army-aspirants was no doubt the biggest agitation in India after the yearlong farmers’ movement which was ultimately called off after Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Guru Nanak Jayanti Day (November 19, 2021 ) announced the withdrawal of three farm laws. But that was not before the death of about 800 agitating activists on the outskirts of Delhi.

So if in the first case the kisans (farmers) were involved, in the second the jawans (youths) were on the warpath. A surprising aspect of the two upsurge is that while in the first the people of Punjab played a very crucial role in the second they kept a relatively low profile though it is a fact that this land of five rivers is known both for witnessing Green Revolution as well as a leading provider of army personnel.

In contrast, this time, the youths of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, etc. were more vociferous in their opposition to the government’s new policy on the recruitment in army.

An analysis of the intra-NDA politics of last couple of years would make it clear as to how the BJP has cut to size and totally marginalised its three oldest allies – the Shiromani Akali Dal, Janata Dal (United) and now Shiv Sena.

The differences over the three farm laws enacted in September 2020 led to the parting of ways by SAD. It was compelled to snap over four decades old ties with the BJP and its lone minister in the Union cabinet Harsimrat Kaur Badal quit the Modi cabinet. In the Assembly election held in Punjab in February 2022 the SAD was virtually decimated with the defeat of all the top leaders, including former chief minister Prakash Singh Badal and his ex-deputy CM son, Sukhbir Singh Badal.

On the other hand, in Bihar after the Assembly election held in October-November 2020 the ruling Janata Dal (United) found itself left high and dry. The party could win only 43 seats against the BJP’s tally, 74, in the House of 243.

Ever since then the relationship between the two alliance partners in Bihar has been uneasy. If the BJP leaders would criticise the Nitish government on the law and order front and failure of prohibition policy, the Janata Dal (United) often accuses the saffron party of deliberately weakening the chief minister. After the Assembly poll the central leadership of the BJP did not clear the names of three top party leaders to become minister in the new Nitish cabinet. They were the then deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi and two other senior colleagues, Nand Kishore Yadav and Prem Kumar. All this had happened because they were considered close to Nitish Kumar. Besides, the party wanted to clip the wings of three leaders within the saffron camp.

According to independent political analysts, the saffron brigade wanted to teach Nitish a lesson as he had on June 16, 2013 kicked out all the 11 ministers of the BJP from his cabinet and snapped 17-long years of relationship. This was just three months before the then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi was to be declared as the Prime Ministerial candidate of the BJP.

Though four years later Nitish made an unconditional homecoming to the NDA by deserting the Grand Alliance (November 2015-July 2017) of his party with Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress, yet the BJP top brass never misses any opportunity to show the Bihar chief minister his actual place.

People close to him are of the view that the fear of central agencies, which are working overtime against the leaders of Congress, RJD, Trinamool Congress, NCP and now Shiv Sena, is compelling Nitish to remain in the NDA. Politically he has lost much of his clout and can in no way play the role of match-winner. That is why he is seen frequently changing his position on different issues.

His party was till recently speaking in the tune of opposition RJD on the issue of Caste Census, Agnipath policy of the Narendra Modi government, etc., but the moment the BJP announced the name of Draupadi Murmu as the Presidential candidate, Nitish without wasting any time lend his support to her. He knows that the BJP can dump him any moment as the party has mastered the art of ‘use it and throw it’.

Like in the case of Janata Dal (United) in Bihar, the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra started observing that the alliance with the saffron party is costing it dearly as the latter is eating into its vote-bank. This was evident in the November 2019 Assembly poll which the two parties contested together. If the Sena could win only 56 seats, the BJP managed to walk away with 106.

After the poll the Shiv Sena took a U-turn when the BJP refused to concede its demand of chief minister’s post. The Sainiks were now not in the mood to play second fiddle to the BJP in Maharashtra. In the pre-2014 period, Shiv Sena’s leader would be the chief minister whenever the alliance was voted to power. Thus the Sena joined hands with the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party.

The BJP was biding for time and wanted to take revenge to destroy the Shiv Sena. So when the stir against the Agnipath policy was at its peak, it engineered a revolt within the Shiv Sena, catching the leadership of the latter by complete surprise. The whole plan was implemented just on the eve of the announcement of the names of the Presidential candidates.

Though the BJP is in a slightly better position to get its candidate win the election for the top post yet it wanted to ensure a comfortable victory. At present it has over 48 per cent votes. Any further division in the opposition camp would make the task much easy for Draupadi Murmu.

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