By Sagarneel Sinha
Shiv Sena, founded by Hindutva mascot Bal Thackeray, has been BJP’s one of the oldest allies — as both have a common ideology, Hindutva. Sena used to play the role of big brother with BJP agreeing to aid the former in Maharashtra, the state with the second largest shares of seats in both the houses of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha after Uttar Pradesh. However, the time has changed and it seems that Shiv Sena under Uddhav Thackeray, son of Bal Thackeray, has been forced to accept BJP as its big brother — as the party is contesting on 124 seats while BJP is testing its luck on 164 seats in the upcoming Maharashtra state elections.
Obviously, this deal wasn’t easy for Shiv Sena to digest. After all, for all these years the party has been reiterating that in Maharashtra, it is the main Hindutva party. However, things began to change after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections with the BJP forming the government at the centre on its own strength. Maharashtra saw state elections in that year where Shiv Sena and BJP broke the partnership after a relation of 25 years. The reason was Shiv Sena’s adamant stand to refuse to allot additional seats that BJP was demanding. The saffron party had then initially demanded equal share of seats but later reduced to 130 seats. But Sena didn’t change its stand — as it failed to recognise the changing political scenario of the state.
Later, the results of the state assembly polls opened the eyes of Shiv Sena that it is no longer the dominant Hindutva party in the state with BJP bagging 122 seats on its own. Even then Sena, which got 63 seats, was throwing tantrums regarding joining the government as BJP was short of majority. But Sharad Pawar led NCP’s sudden offer to support the BJP government from outside forced Shiv Sena to join the government as a junior partner of BJP.
Despite this, during the last 5 years Sena never tried to accept the truth that it was a junior party to BJP and even didn’t mind to play the role of opposition attacking both the state and the Modi government. It even kept giving warnings to BJP about its intention to contest both the Lok Sabha & state elections alone. But the BJP was able to successfully pacify Sena this year and sealed the alliance pact before the Lok Sabha polls by promising to contest equal share of seats in the assembly polls.
As it happened, Modi led BJP won a bigger mandate than that of 2014 by securing 303 seats in the Lok Sabha polls held this year — clearly signalling that BJP has replaced the Congress as the main political axis of the country’s political system. BJP, which is currently in its peak, was in no mood to equally share the assembly seats with Shiv Sena — despite its promise to the Sena before the Lok Sabha polls.
But Shiv Sena, which has now been reduced into a paper tiger under Uddhav Thackeray, had no options but to accept the BJP’s offer of 124 seats. Already, Uddhav is justifying in party rallies that this deal was done in the interest of protecting Hindutva. Shiv Sena, which over the years has also considerably lost its base to the BJP, knows that presently Modi is the dominant electoral factor in Maharashtra and in the rest of the country. So, contesting alone by attacking Modi and BJP would only have harmed more to the Shiv Sena — as it would have resulted in more erosion of its Hindutva voters to the BJP. For Sena, it would have been suicidal — so it has to digest the bitter pill and ally with BJP by accepting its offer.
That doesn’t mean, Sena has forever accepted the BJP as the senior partner. It can be judged from the development that Aditya Thackeray, son of Uddhav Thackeray, has decided to contest from Worli constituency of Mumbai — signalling a transition of politics of the Thackray family as party’s founder Bal Thackeray was never interested in contesting elections. Uddhav too has been following father’s steps. So, Aditya’s decision to test electoral waters is significant. Not only this, 29 year old Youth Sena chief is also trying to change the image of Shiv Sena from being a party of only Marathi Manush to a party of all communities — Gujaratis, Biharis and Bhaiyas of Uttar Pradesh.
Shiv Sena, which once led campaigns against South Indians to the people of UP and Bihar residing in Mumbai and then later turning towards hard Hindutva under Bal Thackeray — even practising more Hindutva than BJP, now seems to have changed its mind under Aditya Thackeray. Shiv Sena led by Bal Thackeray, who was happy to openly declare the role played by Sainiks (his party workers) in bringing down the controversial Babri Masjid of Ayodhya, is now trying to become the “Secular Sena” under Aditya, who is now talking to end discrimination in the name of caste, language and religion and creating “New Maharashtra”.
Surely, from these developments, it can be said that Shiv Sena is preparing itself for the upcoming future — as it has accepted, although reluctantly, that the present belongs to the BJP. Uddhav Thackeray even didn’t forget to remind the excited Sena leaders that Aditya is too young to become Chief Minister or Deputy Chief Minister — clearly indicating that presently Sena is in no mood to cause irritations to its big brother BJP. Instead it is trying to use BJP to gain seats as much as possible. As Sena is in no mood to forever play the junior role to the BJP. Also, the party is trying to change by turning itself as “Secular Sena” to create a new voter base when the two main opposition parties — Congress and NCP — are losing ground in Maharashtra. Whether Shiv Sena’s new transition will be able to attract “secular” voters, only time will answer. Till then, Shiv Sena, despite its strong hesitations, has no options but to stay at the mercy of the juggernaut BJP — which obviously Sena still doesn’t want to accept formally. (IPA Service)