Nearly 13 months after its national executive passed a resolution to contest all elections independently, the Shiv Sena has joined hands with the BJP for the coming Lok Sabha and Assembly polls. The alliance was announced by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in the presence of BJP president Amit Shah and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai.
“The Shiv Sena and the BJP have been partners for the past 25 years,” Fadnavis said. He acknowledged that “there have been some differences in the past,” however, “both the parties are ideologically committed to Hindutva and that is the reason we have come together”. “Because some parties are coming together to cause confusion and challenge the nationalist thought, it is necessary that nationalist parties come together,” Fadnavis said.
The nearly half-and-half seat-sharing arrangement — 25 for BJP and 23 for Shiv Sena — for the Lok Sabha polls demonstrates the realisation of each party’s need for the other in a situation where doing well in Maharashtra is critical to the BJP’s return to power in New Delhi.
Since 1989, when they first entered into a formal alliance, the two parties have fed off each other to gain political strength. However, the Sena, after having played the dominant role in the alliance for years, had begun to feel insecure as the BJP’s star rose in 2014 when it emerged as the single largest party in the Assembly elections.
Left with no choice, the Sena had joined the BJP-led government as the junior partner but had chosen to criticise the BJP at every possible opportunity. Fadnavis said that a similar seat-sharing formula would apply for the Assembly elections as well. The two parties would hold talks with other allies and, “After allotting requisite seats to other allies, both the parties will fight an equal number of seats in the Maharashtra Assembly elections,” Fadnavis said.
An analysis of the electoral performance of the two parties since they joined hands shows that the alliance helped the Sena piggyback on the BJP’s popularity to national prominence while helping the BJP gain greater penetration in the state.
Initially, the Sena got a larger share of seats in the Assembly polls, while the BJP had the upper hand in the Lok Sabha elections. This changed gradually, and in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP contested on 24 seats to the Sena’s 20. In the Assembly elections of that year, the parties contested separately, as perception grew among the Sena cadre that the BJP had been the bigger gainer from their alliance.
But with the parties fighting tough battles both in the state and at the Centre, and with their main competitors, the Congress and NCP, having decided to strike an alliance, getting back together was probably their only option.
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