- Shiv Sena will vote against opposition's trust motion: BJP's Ananth Kumar
- BJP ally Shiv Sena hasn't spelt out its stand yet
- Shiv Sena has been hurling stinging darts and insults at the BJP
Shiv Sena, the most cantankerous member of the BJP-led NDA coalition, will vote against the opposition's no confidence motion that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government will face on Friday, union minister Ananth Kumar has claimed.
"The NDA is united and will vote against the motion." the union minister said on Wednesday, responding to repeated questions about the Shiv Sena's stand in Friday crucial vote.
The central government is comfortably placed in the Lok Sabha and there is no risk to its survival. The ruling NDA has 313 members in the 535-member Lok Sabha including the BJP's 274, a lot more than the 268 that it needs to clear the test.
The opposition has been hoping that allies such as the Uddhav Thackeray's Shiv Sena, which has 18 members in the lower house, embarrasses the government on Friday.
The Shiv Sena, known for acting as the proxy opposition, hasn't spelt out its stand yet.
Over the last year and more, the Shiv Sena frequently hurled stinging darts and insults at the BJP who it has described as the Sena's "biggest political enemy",, called the BJP arrogant and the NDA that it leads "almost dead" and showered praises on Congress boss Rahul Gandhi.
The BJP and the Shiv Sena have been allies since the early 1990s. But their relations have been at a prolonged breakpoint ever since the BJP emerged as Maharashtra's number one party in the 2014 national election. It reversed their longstanding position of the Sena as senior partner, which the party has found difficult to live down.
The two parties had also contested last year's civic elections in Mumbai separately but ended up joining hands after neither received a majority. The BJP had, as a peace offering, let the Shiv Sena take the Mayor's post.
In January this year, Sena boss Uddhav Thackeray also announced that his party would contest the 2019 general election on its own and not as part of the NDA.
But there have been hints that the Shiv Sena has no intention of fast forwarding the party's exit from the NDA.
Besides, it will be a little complicated for the Shiv Sena to vote against the NDA government which has its nominee Anant Geete.
When Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam Party had first given notice for a no-trust vote in March this year, the Shiv Sena had insisted that the motion ended "the myth that this government is unshakable for the next 25 years". It had then announced that it would abstain from voting in the trust vote.
Before the BJP and the Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan sprung a surprise on the opposition, Sena leader Sanjay Raut did not give a clear answer on how his party would vote but underlined that it would speak its mind.
"Every party has its own issues but there are some common issues.... Such as price rise, joblessness and developments in Kashmir. If these issues come up, we will be with them and don't need to raise them separately," Mr Raut said, remarks that are seen as an indication that it might criticise the government during the debate on these issues, but not vote against the NDA.