The Shiv Sena Bhavan was abuzz with activity Sunday, with seat-sharing formulas being discussed amid a visible strain on the 25-year-old Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance. A stone’s throw from the big white building with long glass panes, that used to once be a fort-like brown-brick facade, 27-year-old Aniket Panchal was quietly at work in his framing shop in Dadar, the Shiv Sena’s heartland.
“It is better if the two parties fight the elections together. If the alliance is broken, the votes will be divided between the two parties. It will be difficult,” said Panchal, a Parel resident, who earlier worked directly under the Sena Bhavan for years together with his now deceased father.
Even as Sena-BJP are yet to reach a truce, Panchal’s opinion strongly resounds among several from the city’s saffron bastion, comprising Dadar, Lalbaug, Parel, areas where the Sena had first found widespread support that had propelled the small working-class outfit into a prominent political party. Many from these areas also suggest that BJP should get the upper hand in the alliance for the upcoming Assembly elections.
Fifty-three-year-old Pramod Mane, an architect, said, “The BJP has some systematic and educated leaders that cannot be seen in Shiv Sena. Even during the Lok Sabha elections, whatever votes Sena got in the state were not because of its own strength. It was only because of BJP.”
Mane added that the sitting MLA of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in Dadar has found a connect with the people here and Sena’s stronghold over its bastion is slipping.
“Events in the recent past such as Bal Thackeray’s demise, change in the party’s leadership, and a significant party leader like Sada Sarvankar first quitting, then coming back, have diluted Sena’s influence,” he said.
Mahesh Namjoshi (52), an investment adviser, concurred, saying, “The wave is currently in BJP’s favour. Also, BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis can make a better chief ministerial candidate than Uddhav Thackeray. Thackeray doesn’t have that kind of experience, while Fadnavis has been a mayor in Nagpur and knows how administration works.”
Voting patterns over the past five years have indicated that Shiv Sena has been losing its influence in its mainstay area. It is widely believed that Sena had lost in the previous Lok Sabha election as many of the anti-Congress votes, which would have otherwise all gone to Sena, went in favour of MNS. There was another chink in the traditionally Sena bastion of Dadar a few months later, when MNS’s Nitin Sardesai won the Assembly election, trumping not only TV actor and Sena candidate Adesh Bandekar, but also Sada Sarvankar, a Sena leader, who had at the time defected to the Congress. He later came back to the party. In the 2012 civic elections, the party lost all seven councillor wards to MNS.
Rohit Narvekar (name changed on request), a student from Shivaji Park, said, “The Sena hasn’t been able to connect with the younger generation. They make paradoxical statements about dynastic politics, when in fact they practice the same. Even in its supposed heartland, the younger generation now has many options, though their family members might vote for Sena. If the two parties decide to contest alone, neither will be able to gather sufficient votes to form a government.”