After mudslinging at each other for the last four and a half years, the BJP and Shiv Sena on February 19 ended the speculation of parting ways by announcing alliance for the upcoming Lok Sabha and state assembly polls. Maharashtra has 48 Lok Sabha seats; stating that the Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena’s “core beliefs” are the same, both the parties agreed to a 25-23 seat-sharing formula for the general election with the BJP getting 25 and Shiv Sena getting 23 constituencies. However, for the assembly polls, the parties decided to share an equal number of seats after accommodating other allies. Soon after the official alliance was announced, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that “the association between the two parties goes beyond politics”.
Shiv Sena MP Hemant Godse stated, “The people of the state wished to see Shiv Sena and BJP in an alliance. In the last five years, the alliance government has done good work. We feel that out of 48 seats in Maharashtra, we can win more than 40 seats. Voters believe that our alliance will benefit the country. BJP is committed to the circumstances which had affected the alliance for a while.”
The BJP and Shiv Sena have been partners for the last 25 years; however, there have been differences and conflicts in the past. Moreover, both the parties are ideologically committed to ‘Hindutva’ and this might be the reason for them coming together again. The analysis of the electoral performance of both the parties ever since they joined hands in the 1980s shows that the alliance has helped the Shiv Sena feed of the BJP’s popularity to gain grounds in national politics. At the same time, the alliance also ensured that the saffron party had gained more in the state as well. A strategic seat-sharing agreement with the Sena saw its vote share almost double to 23.72 per cent in 1989 when the Bharatiya Janata Party garnered 65.34 lakh votes and managed to win 10 seats. The alliance allowed the Sena to make its presence in national politics and the party managed to win four of the six seats on its first attempt. Moreover, the success was mostly due to the synergy that the workers from both the parties managed to strike.
BJP MLA Manisha Chaudhary asserted, “Both the parties’ workers are very excited and in favour of the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance! Sena and BJP have supported the common agenda of Hindutva and Ram Mandir; in past four and half years, there have been ups and downs and conflicts, however, we stand together for the welfare of the country. It is aptly said by Amit Shah that the alliance will win 45 out of 48 seats in the state.”
The BJP-Sena alliance fell through in the 2014 assembly elections as the BJP refused to play the junior in the state. The two parties fought separately for the 288 assembly seats and the BJP won 122 whereas the Sena ended up winning 63. Then the two parties decided to join hands to form the government in Maharashtra but the relationship went topsy-turvy and both the parties started prepping their respective cadres to fight solo and making pressure on each other to drive a hard bargain.
The Shiv Sena over the years has left no chance to target and question the PM Modi-led government. Borrowing a jibe from Congress President Rahul Gandhi, the party last year targeted PM Modi and supported the opposition’s demand of a joint parliamentary probe into the Rafale jet deal. Adding to this, Sena leader Sanjay Raut paid a surprise visit to Chandrababu Naidu’s dharna in Delhi pressing for special status to Andhra Pradesh. Naidu’s dharna was attended by opposition leaders like Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee.
NCP MP Dhananjay Mahadik said, “Sena and BJP have stretched the issue for very long and this alliance was supposed to happen. The conflicts between them that were evident in the last few years make me wonder how they will be together! I don’t think that the alliance will gain anything, people won’t support them.”
While addressing BJP workers from Latur, Osmanabad, Hingoli, and Nanded districts in January, in a veiled warning to Shiv Sena, Amit Shah said that if no alliance is done for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party will thrash its former allies like its opponents. Shah also said that if an alliance happens ahead of the elections then the party will ensure the victory of its allies. However, miffed with Shah’s warning, Shiv Sena issued a statement calling the BJP President frantic and arrogant and further added that it was ready to take on whoever challenges it. Sena also said that the BJP’s plan to win 40 seats means that it would rely on manipulation of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). The party further slammed BJP for using Ram Mandir issue as a vote bank tool.
In 2017 BMC elections, alliance talks between Sena and BJP turned futile as Shiv Sena offered mere 60 seats to BJP, 3 less than even in 2012, and much less than 114 as demanded by Amit Shah. However, they fell out again as the election trumpets roared with the dirtiest campaigns ever. Both Shiv Sena and BJP started mudslinging at each other, with Shiv Sena went overboard by making personal attacks on PM Modi. Moreover, the results showed 84 to Shiv Sena and 82 to BJP. BJP went on a back foot and decided not to contest any elections within BMC, paving way for Shiv Sena to have its own Mayor and other positions, indicating a thaw in relations. In other nine Municipal corporation elections, BJP won eight while they had a clear majority in six of them. On the other hand, Shiv Sena performed poorly everywhere except Thane.
Congress MLA Nirmala Ramesh Gavit expressed, “The alliance of Shiv Sena and BJP had to happen because they can’t win the election without each other’s support. They are trying to fool people by showing the conflict between both the parties. The alliance winning 48 seats is not possible. To come to power, Sena and BJP can fall to any level. They use Hindutva and Ram Mandir as their political tool and forget it as soon the election ends.”