The BJP-Shiv Sena have had strained relations inspite of their alliance in Maharashtra government for the past four years. In reality the BJP-Shiv Sena have had an alliance for over 3 decades. However, in the last couple of years, the allies have not been able to form a consensus on several issues and the cracks developed in their alliance. The BJP has affirmed that they want Shiv Sena to acknowledge them as the senior partner, however Uddhav Thackeray, the President Of Shiv Sena knows doing it will prove to be a detrimental move for the Shiv Sena and would pave way for his cousin and political rival, Raj Thackeray to gain political mileage. BJP has managed to retain Palghar Lok Sabha seat in Maharashtra. But in the process, it has badly hurt its oldest ally Shiv Sena, who lashed out at the BJP and the EC for being ‘biased’ towards the BJP. The Palghar by-polls were badly marred by the EVM tampering and rigging controversies.
The outcome of the Palghar and Bhandara-Gondiya bypolls has also come as a wake-up call for the BJP’s aspirations to have a pan-Maharashtra presence under the leadership of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Both Palghar and Bhandara-Gondiya were BJP seats to lose as its candidates – late Chintaman Vanaga and Nana Patole – won from there in the Lok Sabha elections held in 2014. NCP’s revival in Bhandara –Gondiya is not only a setback for Devendra Fadnavis and union minister Nitin Gadkari as it could upset the BJP’s hold in the Vidharbh region, which it was trying to get a stronghold.
On the other hand the Palghar bypoll has not only widened the rift between the ruling partners—BJP and Shiv Sena – but created an inveterate bitterness between Uddhav Thackeray and Devendra Fadnavis, as the former launched an all out attack on the Fadnavis led government in the state. The differences have percolated down to the cadres working at the grass roots.
So any attempts by the top brass of BJP to hold talks with the Shiv Sena were futile.
According to a report in News18, the alliance between Sena and BJP joined hands in 1989 as they both heavily promoted the Hindutva ideology. However, that changed after 2014 Lok Sabha elections when the BJP realised that it has the pan-Maharashtra appeal and thus attempted to emerge as an alternate to the Congress. It tried to make inroads into traditional Congress base – especially the youth amongst the Marathas as it went about splitting the Dalit vote bank of NCP-Congress alliance.
On the other hand, Shiv Sena after senior Thackeray’s demise underwent a dramatic change, with Aditya Thackeray taking over the reigns. The party let go of its ‘Marathi Manoos’ propaganda and instead adopted a less fundamentalist approach.
However, when the BJP fielded candidates against the Shiv Sena in the Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation BMC and won seats in areas with substantial non-Marathi population, it further severed their ties.
Central leaders of the BJP look confident that no party would prefer to ally with the Shiv Sena because of its strident position on Hindutva and Marathi sub-nationalism. “Where will they (Sena) go? Who will accept them, they will have to stay with us,” a key BJP national leader said.
But then there have been instances in the past when the Sena has supported the Congress very tacitly. The party backed the Emergency and did not put up candidates against the Congress in 1980 Lok Sabha polls. The elections saw Congress winning a clear majority in the general elections. Former Maharashta CM late AR Antulay in a quid pro quo gesture helped Sena to get its candidates nominated to the legislative council.
The Shiv Sena, which was once known as “Vasant Sena” because of the tacit support rendered for another former Congress CM Vasantrao Naik, also maintained good relations with NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
The BJP got political strength in Maharashtra because of rebel Congress leaders and distrust between Congress and NCP after fifteen years in power. The political churning in the state has begun. The posturing of the Sena for the 2019 elections is taking place slowly, by the day. 2019 will a completely different ball game as BJP and Congress have realised that regional parties will play an important part in forming governments and coalition governments will be a way ahead.
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