According to media reports, the differences within the Shiv Sena are again apparent prior to the Lok Sabha elections. Earlier, BJP president Amit Shah and Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis called out to the party workers in the state, to be ready to go solo in the elections. However, on the question of calling it quits with the BJP, differences have emerged within the party. According to media reports, while one faction wants the party to remain with the BJP, the other sees benefit in quitting the NDA.
This point of contention has intensified after BJP President Amit Shah made it clear that the BJP would not comply with the unreasonable demands just for the sake of keeping an alliance intact. While the statement by the BJP president has elicited some sharp responses from the anti-BJP factions within the Shiv Sena, the pro-BJP faction has been less vocal in response.
Sanjay Raut and Ramdas Kadam are two of the most vocal anti-BJP voices in the party. Speaking to a media person in Mantralaya, Kadam said, “They (BJP) have already lost elections miserably in five states. Don’t come to Maharashtra and threaten us or we will bury you. Don’t forget that we won 63 seats despite the (Modi) wave”. In another instance, Shiv Sena leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut went on to compare the BJP to a “stalking roadside Romeo”.
The attacks became vocal after the BJP president Amit Shah’s visit to Lathur and asked party worker to be prepared to fight the LS elections on their own. While addressing a rally, BJP president said, “If an alliance takes place, our preparation will be helpful to our partner’s candidates. Don’t think of whether the alliance with Sena will happen or not. Prepare to fight alone.” This gave a clear indication that the BJP is not going to stand down in front of its allies.
On the hand, Shiv Sena MP, Shivajirao Patil took a completely different stance on the issue of ending the alliance with the BJP. Shivajirao Patil stated that Shiv Sena MPs are in favor of the alliance and the party should not be talking about breaking up with the NDA.
The confusion within the party ranks could somewhat be attributed to the Maratha reservation decision by the Fadnavis government. According to a Sena leader, “There has been a change in Sena approach towards BJP, especially after the Maratha Reservation Act, and also the kind of arrangements BJP’s government made in Uttar Pradesh for Uddhav’s visit.”
Both BJP and Shiv Sena shared a strong bond for a long time. But, the fact that “Better to have a known enemy than a friend who is not trustworthy and is unreliable” summarizes the current relationship between NDA allies BJP and Shiv Sena. The two parties have been in an alliance since 1989 after the Sena moved from advocating a pro-Marathi ideology to supporting a broader Hindu Nationalist agenda. For 25 years, the two parties contested the Lok Sabha elections, assembly elections and the BMC elections together. The two parties together formed a government in Maharashtra between 1995 and 1999. From 1999 to 2014, they were again together as the principal opposition. The BJP patriarchs Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani shared a very good working relationship with the Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray, although the BJP was always the junior partner in Maharashtra.
But, during the last Maharashtra state assembly elections both the parties went their separate ways over seat distribution and contested elections alone. Later, The Bharatiya Janata Party emerged as the single largest party in the elections, but in order to get the throne of Maharashtra both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena coalesced again. Since then Shiv Sena has been a ‘bitter frenemy’ of the BJP. It has failed to fulfill the role of a good coalition partner and acted more as a staunch opponent of the BJP.
Today, the BJP is far ahead of the Shiv Sena and more than the BJP needing support from the Sena, it is the other way round. Yes, if the two parties completely snap ties, it would result in a huge win in Maharashtra, in the upcoming Lok Sabha election. But somewhere the Shiv Sena needs to be taught a lesson. The latest statement of the BJP president Amit Shah seems to send a strong message to the Shiv Sena that it must behave responsibly if it has to be relevant in the NDA alliance. The split in the Shiv Sena shows that at least some party leaders are well aware of this reality.