Why BJP-Shiv Sena alliance for Lok Sabha 2019 was predictable

Is Uddhav Thackaray now convinced that 'chowkidar' is not 'chor'?

 |  5-minute read |   19-02-2019
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Has politics become predictable? It’s a great high for a journalist when you predict something and it comes true. For me, the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance was on the same track. When BJP president Amit Shah and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray finally sealed their alliance, in a joint press briefing, both the leaders said that they have come together on the issue of Ram Mandir, and for farmers — issues which the Shiv Sena has been raising to showcase the apparent failures of the Modi and Fadnavis government, of which they have been a part.

Now as per leaders of both the parties, the Shiv Sena has got concrete assurances, so the alliance can be formed — something I had predicted in my DailyO article a few months back. Basically, both these issues have now been used as a window of sorts to enter into an alliance, doors to open which were closed by the Shiv Sena’s constant criticism of the government's policies, right from demonetisation to the handling of Kashmir to the Rafale deal.

The cracks started appearing from the day Narendra Modi became Prime Minister with a massive mandate. What apparently pinched the Shiv Sena was that the body language of their 'younger brother', as the Shiv Sena likes to call themselves 'big brothers' in the alliance, started changing. The Shiv Sena got a real taste of the change when the BJP refused to give them the ministerial quota of two and a half ministries in the Modi cabinet and made Suresh Prabhu cabinet minister — who till then was in the Shiv Sena.

The biggest jolt to the Sena occurred when the BJP took the unprecedented step of breaking the alliance at the time of Maharashtra's assembly elections and despite best efforts from Uddhav and his team, the Shiv Sena finished a distant second while the BJP for the first time crossed the 100-mark in the Maharashtra assembly.

shiv-inside_021919110701.jpgNot love, just a contract: Both the partners have realised that they can't survive without each other. (Photo: Twitter)

This shook the Shiv Sena’s self-respect — and self-confidence too. It was unbelievable for ‘Matoshree’ that the party which they used to call 'parasites' in Maharashtra politics once had grown so much that now it had apparently become mightier than them. Shiv Sena leaders used to complain in private that the BJP grew on the late Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s charisma. But now, the tables were turning. The Sena leadership had to swallow this humiliation as its ranks were eager to join power which they were getting after 15 years of a long break. Uddhav Thackeray accepted joining the Maharashtra government without getting plum ministries.

But this started an era of hatred between both the parties. Uddhav had to maintain a balance between party leaders who, by hook or by crook, wanted to stay in power and the party’s street cadre who were crestfallen at the humiliation by the BJP. So, the Shiv Sena started the double game of playing opposition while being part of the government — be part of the government to keep leaders happy, but attack the government like an opposition party.

As the BJP, after the first two years of triumph, started getting flak for unfulfilled election promises, its loss in by-elections and then the three assembly elections last year got Shiv Sena’s expectations high. The party apparently thought that the time had come to extract the revenge they have been waiting for. But Shiv Sena MPs and MLAs on the ground had a different story to tell. Some MPs told the leadership categorically that the party’s role of playing opposition while being part of the government backfired as it had confused people. They were also worried about a lack of preparedness to fight elections on their own. Many purportedly told the leadership that it would have been better if the party fell out of the government last year when the party unanimously passed a resolution to not get into an alliance with anyone for elections in the future.

thakre_1542705600_61_021919110712.jpegBut Uddhav Thackray will have to explain a lot to Sena voters. (Photo: India Today)

If the leadership would have walked the talk then, it could have been more believable for the voters to vote for the Shiv Sena. Many told Uddhav Thackeray that fighting elections solo will prove more difficult than what they are thinking. Meanwhile, the BJP has apparently realised that Modi alone can’t win them back to power. So, despite public posturing, backroom channels were opened with Uddhav Thackeray.

Both the partners have realised that this is no more a love affair but a contract of relationship to survive now and come to power. Suddenly thus, in the Shiv Sena’s Dussehra rally, Uddhav Thackeray picked up the Ram Mandir issue. "Mandir wahi banayenge, lekin tarikh nahi batayenge", he said, taking a jibe at the BJP.

It was exactly the kind of opening of a window of opportunity both wanted so that an alliance could be formed in the future. And that has happened. The Congress-NCP is on the verge of making a grand alliance against the BJP — the by-poll results of Bhanadar in Vidarbha were alarming for both the parties as the seat which was won by the BJP earlier, by more than one lakh votes, was lost to the NCP in by-polls last year, by more than 50,000 votes. 

This was the most direct realisation that if both the Shiv Sena and BJP do not come together, they are looking at crushing losses.

But the battle is not over — the Shiv Sena is yet to convince voters why they have embraced 'Afjal Khan’, a famous name from the Adil Shahi sultanate given to Amit Shah by Uddhav Thackeray in his speeches. Is the Shiv Sena convinced now that ‘chowkidar chor hai’, the Congress’s jibe used by Uddhav Thackeray in his recent rally, is untrue? How are they convinced that Ram Mandir will be built with hearing anything about ‘tarikh’ (date) first?

Perhaps these contradictions are the reason why both the parties have now decided to first do joint briefings to their party workers to explain why they have come together, and why they will continue to be together even for the assembly polls in Maharashtra.

Also Read: Why has Shiv Sena woken up to hate Modi? The answer is centuries old

Writer

Sahil Joshi Sahil Joshi @sahiljoshii

Executive Editor, India Today TV and Aaj Tak

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