The Shiv Sena has severed ties with its old ally BJP after 35 years, due to dispute over power sharing eventually Maharashtra coming under President’s rule, even as the Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP, having finalised a common minimum program are expected to take over the reigns of the state soon.
Under the pact, the Sena will have to shed its “Hindutva” plank, will have to agree to demand of 5 per cent reservation in jobs and education to Muslim minorities and will also have to withhold its demand to confer “Bharat Ratna” on freedom fighter Swatantryaveer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.
Soon after the 2019 assembly election results were announced on 24 October, the Sena came out with a demand of 50:50 power sharing formula including a rotational chief ministership for 2 ½ years. While the Sena claimed that this was agreed upon during pre-poll discussion, the BJP rejected the claim outright. BJP President Amit Shah maintained that throughout election campaign Devendra Fadnavis was projected as the next chief minister and that time the Sena did not object.
Both the Sena and BJP had contested 2019 Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections together. They won a sizable number of seats (BJP-23, Sena-18) in Lok Sabha. However in Vidhan Sabha elections, both of them lost considerable number of seats (BJP 17, Sena 7 compared to 2014 election). Yet the saffron brigade was in a comfortable position to form the government (145 seats required for majority in 288 member Assembly) with a tally of 161 seats (BJP 105 and Sena 56). However the Sena distanced itself from BJP after announcement of results.
In fact the bickering between both the partners came to the fore after 2014 Lok Sabha election (which both of them had contested jointly). The Sena was given only one cabinet berth of Minister for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, despite it emerging as the third largest party in Lok Sabha. Comparatively the Telugu Desam Party and Lok Janshakti Party ( LJP), with negligible number of seats, were given important ministries like civil aviation and the Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, respectively.
Soon thereafter there were differences even over seat sharing for 2014 assembly elections. The big brother Shiv Sena used to claim a lion’ share in seat distribution for assembly and local self body polls for the years together and the BJP was playing a second fiddle. The seat sharing used to be 171 (Sena) and 117 (BJP)=288 for assembly election. In subsequent years, the ratio was changed to 169 (Sena) and 119 (BJP). However in the “Modi wave”, the seat sharing issue took different turn with BJP demanding larger share. Eventually both the partners contested separately and won the seats in the ratio of 122 (BJP): 63 (Sena).
Initially the Sena sat in Opposition but joined the BJP Government after two months. However it was given insignificant ministries like environment, health, PWD etc, while BJP retained all important ministries like Home, Urban Development, Finance etc. The Sena was relegated to the post of ministers of state in which it had hardly any say. Eventually the Sena took to streets and staged many agitations, including for total waiver of farm loans, despite being part of the Government.
Compared to this, in 1995 when the Sena and BJP had formed the Government (Sena-73, BJP-65 + Independents) the BJP was given Deputy Chief Ministership, in addition to important portfolios like Home, Urban Development, finance and Irrigation.
While love-hate relationship has been going on between both the partners, the Sena too has a chequered history. It had supported the candidature of Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee (both Congress), in Presidential election, despite it being a member of National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
It was BJP leader late Pramod Mahajan who had sought Shiv Sena Pramukh late Balasaheb Thackeray out for an alliance in the mid-1980s. The alliance dates back to 1984 when the BJP and Sena came together for the first time. BJP was only four-year-old then. Balasaheb Thackeray arrived at an agreement with the BJP leadership of LK Advani and late Atal Bihari Vajpayee and fielded Sena candidates on BJP’s election symbol in the 1984 election.
Both the parties contested together Maharashtra assembly election in 1985. BJP won 14 seats and Sena won one seat. But both of them progressed due to the Ram Mandir movement and in 1989 the Sena entered the Lok Sabha with four seats for the first time. The BJP bagged 10 seats in that election. In 1990 both the saffron partners emerged as a strong opposition group ( Sena 52,BJP 42 seats) in the Maharashtra assembly). Thereafter they have been together in various local bodies although both vied with each other for the posts like leader of the Opposition.
Both of them hold similar views on contentious issues like Ram Janmabhoomi -Babri Masjid dispute, uniform civil code, Article 370, triple talaq, representation of Muslims in elections, cultural nationalism and even foreign policy. “Hindutva” kept them together and in fact, it was the glue that bound them together and presented them as one unit to the voters of Maharashtra, election after election. An average voter in Maharashtra did not differentiate between the Sena and the BJP at state and national level believing they would be one, post-election, even if they contest separately.
After 2002 Godhra riots, Balasaheb Thackeray was among the few senior leaders in the NDA, besides Advani, who backed Narendra Modi as Gujarat chief minister. He had also said that “Modi gaya to Gujarat gaya.” The Sena founder had batted for Modi several times in public...in 2002, 2004 and again in 2007 after Modi’s spectacular second win as chief minister and in 2009 as a ‘self-made Hindutva leader’.
Thackeray senior may not have apologised per se after Babri Masjid demolition and communal riots which followed. In fact he had said that “I am proud if those demolished the mosque were Shiv Sainiks. Subsequently he suggested that either a school, a hospital or a stadium be built, instead of a temple, on the disputed site. Ashok Singhal, the then president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, had wrathfully labelled Thackeray senior, as a ‘vivekheen (brainless) Hindu’ for daring to build bridges with the minorities. Thackeray then ceased to lend his might to the VHP for various bandhs and agitations it called in subsequent years, leading to the failure of every one of those movements at least in Maharashtra.
Balasaheb’s son Uddhav, apparently has not developed a rapport with Modi and there is a communication breakdown between both of them, due to the absence of state BJP mediator and that is seen as one of the main reasons for the rupture in the saffron alliance.
Modi is clearly on the way to becoming the “Hindu Hriday Samrat” - a term coined by Thackeray senior for himself, when he was making paradigm shift from regional politics to one based on religion, much before the BJP had come into the picture. The Sena would hate to concede that title to Modi.