Shiv Sena-BJP poll tie-up: Will alliance survive?

It is no secret that Aaditya Thackeray is planning to contest the upcoming Assembly polls.

The relationship between the Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena is like that of a husband and wife. Married for over two decades, both know each others’ minute details but often fight in public on minor issues. They quarrel in public and vow to separate but never do that. Each time, they have a different reason to fight but in no time patch up and vouch to be together forever.

Now that Assembly elections are round the corner, there is an atmosphere of suspense and mystery over their mutual relations. ‘Will they, will they not?’— this is the question on everyone’s mind ever since the alliance won the Lok Sabha polls by a huge margin. Yet, the BJP offered only one ministerial berth to the Sena, that too the insignificant portfolio of Heavy Industries.

It was widely believed that Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray would decline the offer. But Uddhav blinked and despite winning 18 seats, the Sena had to eat the humble pie.

Since then, barring Uddhav, the second and third rung leadership, particularly leaders like Sanjay Raut, has been talking about going it alone in the Assembly election. But, is it possible?

In 2014, the two partners contested separately. While the BJP won 122 seats, the Sena ended up with just 63. Though the BJP more than doubled its seat tally, it fell short of the golden figure of 145.

Five years later, Amit Shah made all efforts to forge an alliance ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. The party agreed to a 50:50 arrangement for Lok Sabha and Assembly. As per the understanding, both parties would contest 135 seats each after leaving 18 seats for minor partners like RPI.

Will this truce work? That's the million-dollar question. This is because the BJP will only be able to contest an additional 13 seats. After the huge influx of Opposition leaders, it would also be very difficult (if not impossible) for the BJP to accommodate everyone. On the other hand, the Sena would be more than happy to contest 135 seats. Moreover, the BJP leadership has already promised the position of deputy chief minister to the Sena. If it works out, 29-year-old Aaditya would surely occupy the position.

It is no secret that Aaditya is planning to contest Assembly polls. If it happens, he would be the first Thackeray to do so. The Sena has reportedly finalised Worli in Mumbai for the Thackeray scion. Once considered to be a Sena bastion, NCP’s Sachin Ahir took away the seat in 2009. In 2014, however, the Sena pulled a victory in Worli. Now that Mr Ahir is in the Sena, the game seems to be easier for the party.

Opposition leaders have made a beeline to join the BJP or the Sena, putting the alliance in a fix. It has to be seen whether second and third rung Sena-BJP cadres work with the same zeal, enthusiasm and honesty for the turncoats. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that these turncoats would remain with the ruling alliance in future.

The alliance partners need to do lot of soul searching before kick-starting their election campaigns. Given the recent political developments in Maharashtra, it however seems that the ruling alliance has edged out the Congress-NCP alliance to fully occupy the political space in the state.

Maha confusion over alliance
Though the BJP and Shiv Sena have declared that they will contest the election in alliance, leaders from both parties have been making conflicting statements.

Recently, at a party meeting in Mumbai, BJP’s Maharashtra in-charge Saroj Pandey had said that the party should be prepared to contest all 288 seats. Her statement did not go down well with the Sena. Soon, Sena minister Subhash Desai declared that his party would not be caught napping in 2019.

Mr Desai's reference was to the 2014 split, when the BJP announced it would go it alone on the eve of the last date of filing nominations. Both parties had to field candidates on all seats within 24 hours.

(Bharatkumar Raut is a political analyst and former Member of Parliament)

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