Shiv Sena out of Bengal polls, to back Mamata

By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, March 4 (IANS)
The Shiv Sena has decided to opt out of the upcoming West Bengal Assembly elections, but the party has decided to ‘wholeheartedly’ support All India Trinamool Congress leader and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, a top official said here on Thursday.
Sena MP and Chief Spokesperson Sanjay Raut said that since the West Bengal polls are turning out to be “Didi vs All”, the Shiv Sena has decided not to contest the elections, but will stand in solidarity with her.
“Looking at the present scenario, it appears like a ‘Didi vs All’ fight. All M’s – Money, Muscle and Media – are being used against Mamata Didi. We wish her a ‘roaring success’, because we believe she is the real ‘Bengal Tigress’!” said Raut.
He said that the decision was taken after discussions with Shiv Sena President and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
However, MVA sources said the move could have been prompted to ensure that there is no division of votes in the West Bengal polls that could damage Trinamool’s prospects vis-a-vis the BJP as the Sena was tentatively planning to contest around 60 seats.
As part of its strategy to acquire an all-India presence, in January, the Sena had announced plans to sound the poll bugle in West Bengal where it had contested the 2016 Assembly and 2019 Lok Sabha polls, but notched nil in terms of seats.
Earlier, the Sena — ruling Maharashtra in alliance with Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress — has contested various elections in different states including Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir and Goa besides West Bengal.
The saffron party has justified its ventures in other states on grounds that the Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre has been attempting to destabilize or dethrone Constitutionally-elected governments in all Opposition-ruled states, including Maharashtra and West Bengal.
Incidentally, ruling ally NCP President Sharad Pawar has already said he would visit Kolkata to extend support to Mamata Banerjee — as part of plans to build up a ‘grand alliance’ of national and state opposition parties — before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Similarly, political sources also do not rule out the possibility of a repeat of Maharashtra’s MVA experiment — Sena-NCP-Congress with differing ideologies joining hands — in West Bengal if the eastern state brews up a fractured mandate in the elections, the results of which are expected in early-May.
“The unthinkable happened in Maharashtra and it is working smoothly. Anything is possible… even in WB… The MVA is cited as a national example to make states strong,” a senior state leader said guardedly, on the odds with three arch-rivals in West Bengal — Congress, Left Front and Trinamool Congress — hugging each other post-polls to keep the BJP at bay.
On its part, the BJP is in a hyper-aggressive mood to capture West Bengal and is leaving no stone unturned to conquer what was a Communist fortress for nearly three decades before Mamata planted the Trinamool flag there 10 years ago.
The relations between the Thackeray family and Mamata Banerjee, a former Union Minister, go back several decades.
In 2017, Uddhav, 60 and Mamata, 66, had a cordial meeting in Mumbai when the latter had come to invite Indian corporate honchos for the West Bengal Global Investment Summit-2018 held in Kolkata.

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