Thackeray has of late put the spotlight on the Ram temple issue. While announcing his plans to go to Ayodhya, Thackeray has been targeting the BJP-led central government, saying that the saffron party should either build the Ram temple or admit that it was also a gimmick.
“The Shiv Sena’s decision to bring the Ram temple issue to the centre stage will be adequately reciprocated by the central leadership of the BJP. Shah is likely to hold discussions with Thackeray to explain the party’s stand and plans on the Ram temple issue,” a BJP source told The Indian Express.
“The Shiv Sena’s decision to rake up Hindutva is perceived as a positive development ahead of elections next year,” a BJP source said. But the source indicated that the Sena’s decision to raise the Ram temple issue was a strategy on Sena’s part to reach out to the BJP for a pre-poll alliance ahead of the elections.
According to a senior BJP minister, who requested anonymity, “In politics, nothing is permanent. The decision and alliances are based on practicality and pragmatism. Last year, Thackeray in a meeting had adopted a resolution to contest alone. Now, if they have to avoid the division of votes and consolidate their own strength, an alliance with the BJP appears the best bet. Also, Hindutva agenda gives the Sena leadership a safe passage and face-saver when it comes to explaining the cadre its flip-flop on an alliance with the BJP.”
While admitting that the central leadership of the BJP is keen on an alliance with the Sena, the minister said, “Amitji (Shah) will address all the concerns raised by the Sena leadership related to the Ram temple in Ayodhya. The matter related to the Ram temple issue is still in court which cannot be ignored.”
Asserting that the BJP was committed to a magnificent Ram temple in Ayodhya, he said, “It is no secret that the BJP and the Sena have always struck a positive chord on the Hindutva agenda.”
On April 6, Shah had publicly said that the BJP would like to have a pre-poll alliance with the Sena. In June, Shah and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis visited Thackeray’s residence at Bandra to iron out differences between the two parties.
Sources in the Sena also indicated that a pre-poll alliance was not ruled out as there was pressure from party MLAs and MPs to have an alliance with the BJP.
At a meeting held recently, they were in favour of a pre-poll alliance. However, key Sena leaders believe that the alliance should be on equal terms thus raising the bargaining power for seat-sharing with the BJP both in the Lok Sabha and assembly polls.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls for 48 seats, the BJP won 23 seats, Sena 18, Congress 2, NCP 4 and Swabhimani Shetkari Party 1. The BJP and Sena had a pre-poll alliance.
However, in the state assembly elections held in October 2014, the BJP and Sena contested separately for 288 seats. The four-cornered polls saw the BJP winning 122 seats, Sena 63, Congress 42, NCP 41 and smaller parties/independents together 20 seats.