On the backfoot after suffering reversals in three states in the Hindi heartland, the BJP, in the run-up to the Lok Sabha election in Maharashtra next year, seems eager for a pre-poll alliance with the Shiv Sena. This became clear after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, on Saturday, reiterated that an alliance with the Shiv Sena would materialise.
Fadnavis, in an interview to a TV channel, asserted that the “alliance will certainly happen” and he has taken the initiative for it. “We are united in the government. They have done well in some areas and so have we. I would not like to get into the debate of who the big brother is, but yes, we are brothers,” he said.
He added, “If the BJP and Shiv Sena fight jointly, they will trample upon the opposition. If they don’t fight jointly, the votes will get divided and the opposition will benefit”.
While the Chief Minister sounded confident of a pre-poll alliance with the BJP’s long-time partner, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray didn’t seem to share the feeling while addressing party workers at Hatkanagale in Kolhapur on Saturday. “I will decide what to do for Lok Sabha elections… currently, the political scene in the country is changing rapidly,” he said.
“It is difficult to guess which way the wind is blowing. But, after the elections in the five states and results of the three states, the country has moved on to a new path. Therefore, now I will decide what to do for Lok Sabha elections,” he said.
According to political analyst Abhay Deshpande, “BJP has been desperate for an alliance with the Shiv Sena for some time now”.
Deshpande said BJP’s desire for an alliance was first evident when BJP chief Amit Shah himself went to Matoshree for a one-on-one with Uddhav Thackeray. “…their desperation seems to have increased after the defeats in the three states, what with the Chief Minister saying that BJP was ready to decide seat-sharing with the Sena for the Lok Sabha polls as well as the assembly elections, before the parliamentary polls… the statement clearly shows that the BJP is on the backfoot and is trying to woo the Sena,” said Deshpande.
When queried about the CM’s statement — that an alliance with the Sena was certain — Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut said, “whether Sena will have an alliance or not, the final decision will be taken by party chief Uddhav Thackeray, not by the BJP”.
Raut pointed out that the Sena had not snapped its alliance with the BJP in 2014. “It was the BJP which had ended the alliance,” he said.
BJP leaders, however, said they have always sought an alliance with the Sena. “For the past four years, we have been trying for an alliance with the Sena. Whether we won elections or lost, we had always sought an alliance with the Sena,” said BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari.
The state Congress, however, dismissed the issue. “Whether they fight unitedly or separately, it doesn’t mean anything to us. We will still defeat them in the ensuing polls. The public mood in the country, as reflected in the three states in the Hindi heartland, has changed and it is drastically against the BJP,” said Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant.
He said the Congress and NCP will soon firm up their pre-poll alliance, and will defeat the BJP-Sena combine.
Incidentally, for over two years, the Sena has been criticising the BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah. Every victory of the Congress has been carried on the front page of Sena mouthpiece Saamana.
When the Congress improved its performance in the Gujarat assembly election, but couldn’t win, Saamana carried a headline, ‘Brother, you have won…’. This was in praise of Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
On the other hand, whenever the BJP has lost in an election, it has been ridiculed by Saamana, whose editor is Uddhav Thackeray. Last week, after the results of the assembly elections in five states were declared, Saamana took potshots at the Prime Minister with a headline, ‘Namoharan’.
When asked about the Shiv Sena’s constant criticism of the BJP and the Prime Minister, Bhandari said as a policy, BJP does not comment on editorials. When asked why the BJP was still looking for an alliance with the Sena, which has been unsparing in its attacks against the BJP and its leadership, Bhandari refused to comment. The state Congress too has kept mum on the repeated praise of Congress and its president by Uddhav Thackeray.