The Shiv Sena has always been known for attacking its alliance partner BJP on several issues affecting the nation in the last few years. The party left no chance to criticise its alliance partner, be it over issues like Pulwama terror attack, Ram Temple issue, and Article 370 and it even declared to fight the polls alone in the state. However, with the approaching general election season, they changed its stance and joined hands with BJP in a way to consolidate the alliance against the opposition parties. This is looked after as Shiv Sena reconnecting with its lost roots of ‘Hindu nationalism’ again, the ideology that the founder of the party Balasaheb Thackeray floated with. Even after forming the Maharashtra government together, Sena has always used its mouthpiece Saamana to express its displeasure over the policies of BJP. Opposition parties like Congress and NCP had criticised Sena for its double standards and asked it to withdraw support to the BJP government.
Sena nonetheless has sealed a pact with the BJP for contesting the Lok Sabha polls jointly. The party has agreed on a 25-23 seat-sharing formula with BJP. Last year, Sena had taunted PM Modi saying Chowkidar (watchman) Chor Hai (is a thief) but now the party is supporting BJP’s #Mainbhinchowkidar campaign. Sena has always followed a big brother approach while having an alliance with BJP. However, the scenario has changed drastically after the BJP won the Lok Sabha polls convincingly in 2014. After emerging as the single largest party, BJP has started demanding more seats from Sena for contesting assembly polls.
Former minister and NCP leader Shashikant Shinde said, “The alliance between Congress and NCP is not visible at the lower level but it is working. While I am unaware of the urban areas, people residing in rural areas are not pleased with the government. People will not vote for BJP. Sadhvi Pragya has made statements against martyr Hemant Karkare and its effect will be seen in the entire nation. Sena supporting Sadhvi is unjustified. Why didn’t they support her when she was granted bail?”
Sena and BJP had differences with the seat sharing issue as both decided to contest 2014 assembly polls separately. BJP clinched 122 seats and was short of numbers required for government formation. NCP came forward to lend outside support to BJP. However, NCP later withdrew support to BJP as Sena which won 63 seats came out in rescue of BJP by offering support to it.
BJP MLA Snehalata Kolhe told Afternoon Voice, “Sena-BJP will win 35-40 seats in Lok Sabha polls in Maharashtra. People are today more concerned about development and patriotism. People are not bothered about who is contesting polls in local areas but they want a strong person as the PM candidate at the national level. At least in Maharashtra, people are more concerned about development and issues like Ram Temple construction have taken a backseat.”
Both the parties have formed a pre-poll alliance to contest the Lok Sabha polls. While the opposition parties like Congress-NCP have called Sena an opportunistic party which is more bothered about power, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has stated that his party has allied with BJP for ensuring the development of Marathwada region and Maharashtra. Even BJP president Amit Shah used to criticise Shiv Sena but he has played a vital role in convincing Sena to support BJP for Lok Sabha polls. He also stated that the BJP and Sena government worked hard to restore Maharashtra’s glory. Uddhav and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had shared dais while campaigning for Lok Sabha polls in Latur. Will both parties ensure a repeat of their 2014 Lok Sabha poll performance this year?
Shiv Sena MLA Vaibhav Naik asserted, “Hindutva and development are our agenda. There were some differences with the BJP but now everything is working well yet.”
On the other hand, even though NCP is having a pre-poll alliance with Congress, its president Sharad Pawar has not seen sharing platform with Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
Shiv Sena has backed the nomination of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur as a BJP candidate. Sena parliamentary party leader Sanjay Raut stated, “We welcome the nomination of the Sadhvi as a BJP candidate,” When pointed out that her name was yet to be cleared in Malegaon case. Raut said, “Let people judge her.” Raut also added that Sadhvi was brutalised in the jail and she had to undergo severe hardships.