‘Wasted years, Hindutva only on paper’: From oldest allies to rivals, how BJP and Shiv Sena's ties have transformed
The hostility between the two parties came to a head on Monday when Devendra Fadnavis said that the Shiv Sena’s Hindutva is merely on paper and doesn't go beyond speeches in response to Uddhav Thackeray’s ‘wasted 25 years’ comment
Ties between the BJP and Shiv Sena, already at a low ever since they split in 2019, has taken a sharp nosedive in the past two days with Uddhav Thackeray, Sanjay Raut and Devendra Fadnavis exchanging barbs.
We take a look back at how the ties between these allies of over 30 years has deteriorated, with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray saying on Monday that his party wasted 25 years as part of an alliance with BJP.
Allies for the longest
All was going well, or it appeared to be, between Shiv Sena and the BJP till 2019.
The two parties, married to the Hindu ideology, had first come together in in 1984 thanks to an anti-Congress front engineered by Sharad Pawar, the powerhouse Maratha politician.
A formal alliance was formed for the 1989 Lok Sabha election, in which the BJP was to contest on 22 of the 48 parliamentary seats in the state and Shiv Sena on 6.
Hindutva was the glue that held the two parties and presented them as one unit to the voters of Maharashtra, election after election. So strong was their alliance that voters didn’t distinguish between the Shiv Sena and the BJP at state and national level believing they would be one post-election even if they contest separately.
The alliance between the two made a lot of sense as they both had similar views on issues such as the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute, uniform civil code, Article 370, triple talaq, representation of Muslims in elections, cultural nationalism and even foreign policy.
It was all smooth sailing between the BJP and Shiv Sena with the latter taking the lead position for state elections and vice versa for national elections. For instance, in the Assembly election held in 1990, the Shiv Sena contested on 183 seats out of 288, leaving 105 for its ally.
Ties hit a rocky road when they lost power in the state around 1999 when the alliance lost the polls. It was then that the BJP, which had bagged 56 seats vis-a-vis Sena's 69 seats, demanded for the Leader of Opposition’s role. This was the time, when Bal Thackeray ridiculed the BJP’s ambition to go 100 per cent in Maharashtra.
Bal Thackeray used to say, Kamalabai (a reference for BJP’s poll symbol, Lotus) was blooming in the state only because of Shiv Sena.
Despite their road bumps, the two continued in their alliance and the BJP kept growing in stature in the state. This was truly reflected in the 2014 Assembly polls, when the BJP bagged 122 seats whereas the Sena won only 63 seats.
2019 changes it all
In 2019, things came to a head between the two parties.
After contesting the state elections separately, it was assumed that both of them would come together. In the 288-member Assembly, the BJP had bagged 105 seats and the Sena had bagged 56 seats.
It was then that the talks between the two parties started crumbling. Led by Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, demanded it should share the chief minister's position with the BJP on a rotational basis.
The BJP flatly refused.
After a few excruciating rounds of talks between the two sides, the Sena pulled its single minister out of the federal cabinet.
And on 12 November 2019, the bad marriage came to an end when it was announced that the two were splitting up.
It was then that the Sena stitched up an alliance with Sharad Pawar’s NCP (54) and Congress (44) and Uddhav Thackeray became the chief minister of Maharashtra.
Bitter words exchanged
The rivalry escalated on Sunday when Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray while addressing party workers through virtual mode on the occasion of 96th birth anniversary of the party founder and his father, Balasaheb Thackeray, said, "Sena had wasted its time with BJP for 25 years. My only disappointment is that once upon a time, they were our friends. We nurtured them. As I said earlier, our 25 years in alliance with the BJP were wasted."
Stressing that Shiv Sena had not let go of its Hindutva stand, Thackeray said, "Shiv Sena pramukh had told us about Hindutva. We wanted power for Hindutva. What we are seeing now, the Hindutva that is practiced by these people (BJP), is only a pretense. Their Hindutva is for power. They are only wearing fake skin of Hindutva. People ask us whether we have left Hindutva. But we have left BJP and not Hindutva. BJP does not mean Hindutva".
He accused the BJP of forming alliances with regional parties only to get to power. “BJP's principle is use and throw policy. Remember the days when BJP candidates used to lose their deposits in elections? That time they needed us and that is why they got into alliance with regional parties, with us, Akali Dal and TMC. They took everybody together and Vajpayee formed the government. We supported them wholeheartedly. But now these neo-Hindutvavadis are using Hindutva only for their own benefits."
Doubling down on the BJP, the Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut further said on Monday, "We took BJP from bottom to top in Maharashtra. After Babri, there was a Shiv Sena wave in Northern India, if we had fought polls at that time, there would have been our (Shiv Sena) PM in country but we left it for them. BJP only uses Hindutva for power."
We took BJP from bottom to top in Maharashtra. After Babri, there was a Shiv Sena wave in Northern India,if we had fought polls at that time, there would have been our(Shiv Sena) PM in country but we left it for them. BJP only uses Hindutva for power: Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut pic.twitter.com/cDQKh8lzGJ
— ANI (@ANI) January 24, 2022
Not one to back down, former Maharashtra chief minister and state BJP chief Devendra Fadnavis hit back at the Sena, saying that the latter has become the “number four” party in the state. He added that till the time the Sena was the saffron party's ally, it used to be either “number 1 or 2.”
He, according to news agency PTI, said that Sena's Hindutva is merely on paper and doesn't go beyond speeches. Fadnavis said under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Ram temple is being built in Ayodhya. Modi also developed the Kashi Vishwanath temple corridor.
On the other hand, the Sena (which is in power in Maharashtra) could not even rename Aurangabad as Sambhajinagar, and Osmanabad as Dharashiv. But, Allahabad was renamed as Prayagraj (under the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh), while the Sena kept merely mincing words, he said.
Commenting on the Ram Janmabhoomi issue, Fadnavis said, "Who all from the Sena participated in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement? We are the ones who took bullets and lathis in the movement. Your (Shiv Sena) Hindutva is merely on paper."
With inputs from agencies
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