The compulsions of the Hindutva vote bank over 25 years in Maharashtra have made the two parties the oldest ideological partners and it is unrealistic to believe the situation has changed, reports Sunil Gatade.
Brinkmanship is second nature to the Shiv Sena.
Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has borrowed the chowkidar chor hai phrase from Congress President Rahul Gandhi to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Simultaneously, he is having seat-sharing talks with Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who is of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Unmindful of any repercussions, Sena mouthpiece Saamana cautions the ruling party: 'Don’t think of people forgetting the Rafale deal issue even though you rake up Agusta Westland.'
In the Lok Sabha debate on the Rafale deal, the Sena joined the Opposition in demanding a joint parliamentary committee.
In the wake of the Modi interview on TV, the Sena wondered how he could even think of the law being above Lord Ram.
This constant one-upmanship sums up the confusion on whether the BJP and the Shiv Sena will bury the hatchet.
The compulsions of the Hindutva vote bank over 25 years in Maharashtra have made the two parties the oldest ideological partners and it is unrealistic to believe the situation has changed.
This is notwithstanding the BJP’s remarkable feat of jumping from fourth to first on the back of the Modi wave in May 2014.
However, 2019 is a different story.
The Sena has neither forgotten nor forgiven the BJP for its shock decision of going solo in the October 2014 assembly polls, dumping its “elder brother” unceremoniously after acrimonious seat-sharing talks.
What has added fuel to the fire is that till BJP chief Amit Shah visited Matoshree, the residence of Thackeray, some six months ago, the party felt neglected.
Now, the BJP’s loss of power in three states of the Hindi heartland has come as a godsend for the Sena to extract its pound of flesh.
The Lok Sabha polls are expected in April-May and those of the assembly by October.
The talk is that the Sena would like both to be held together if it strikes a deal with the BJP.
But questions remain about how much ground Modi-Shah concede to their chief detractor within the National Democratic Alliance.
At a rally last month in Pandharpur, Thackeray gave a hint of his strategy, declaring he wanted the “Shiv Sena’s rajya” (power to the Sena) and was not much bothered about seat-sharing talks.
BJP leaders say in private that in the backdrop of the NDA deal in Bihar, Thackeray could be tempted to ask for the moon in Maharashtra, but how much could it concede to a “Modi baiter” and why should it concede at all?
The suspicion in the BJP is that the Sena could chalk out its own course in the post-poll scenario.
“If like Rahul Gandhi, you start attacking Modi, how much faith could we have in you?” is the question being posed by BJP leaders.
Though the national executive of the Sena last year passed a resolution to contest all polls separately, the talk in political circles is that there is a division in the Sena on the “going it alone” issue.
If local BJP leaders are to be believed, 61 out of 63 of the Sena MLAs want the alliance to continue and so do most of its Lok Sabha MPs.
Amid all the haze, the BJP’s chief spokesman in the state, Madhav Bhandari, merely said: “We will sail through due to the performance and popularity of Modi and Fadnavis. We are confident the Sena will be with us in this fight.”