Ending months of speculation, the Shiv Sena and BJP on Thursday announced that they would jointly contest the upcoming elections to 212 municipal councils and nagar panchayats in Maharashtra, slated to be held between December 27 and January 8, 2017. The announcement came as a surprise to many with the two parties of late sharing an acrimonious relationship marked by verbal jousting and a game of political oneupmanship. Sena leader Vinayak Raut had initiated talks with state BJP president Raosaheb Danve, and the deal was sealed after Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis spoke to each other.
The leaders said that directions had been issued to all local-level functionaries of both parties to put up a united front during the campaign. The recent Maratha rallies seeking reservation in jobs and education have made the political parties in the state edgy.
“In areas where there are difficulties, the state-level leadership will step in and sort out the problem,” said Danve.
While some BJP leaders had spoken in favour of an alliance, the Sena had been non-committal. Raut, however, said, “The Shiv Sena was never against the alliance. Our only issue was that it should not be a piecemeal approach with alliance in one village and not in another. We are happy with this state-level alliance and it is the beginning of better things to come.”
The Sena, which has been forced to play second fiddle to the BJP in Maharashtra after its poor electoral performance in 2014, shares an uneasy relationship with the dominant partner.