When Bal Thackeray pushed aside the Marathi plank for Hindutva in the mid-1980s, Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) strategists tried to exploit his aggression and popularity. And, BJP's Pramod Mahajan made it possible.
By 1985, Thackeray had realised that the Marathi manoos card
wouldn't work any longer in highly urbanised and cosmopolitan cities such as Mumbai, Aurangabad and Thane. So, he quickly switched over to Hindutva.
Meanwhile, Mahajan was on a mission to expand BJP's influence in the country and was looking for a strong ally in Maharashtra. Thackeray fit the bill. "Thackeray and Mahajan made the alliance look natural because of the common Hindutva factor. Thackeray ruled the working class - mostly lower castes, which were beyond BJP's reach. The two benefitted from each other," said political analyst Pratap Thorat.
In joining hands with the Sena, the BJP overlooked the fact that Thackeray had supported the 1975 emergency.
Even Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), BJP's mother organisation, took serious interest in the Sena. Unlike Sena, the RSS or BJP did not have workers to flex their muscles on the streets. Thackeray and the RSS also shared some ideologies.
The Babri Masjid demolition, the communal riots that ensued as well as the Congress government's dismal performance worked in the Sena's favour. The Sena-BJP alliance won a record 33 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats.
However, the alliance's 27-year-old relationship has been rocky. The saffron combine lost 23 Lok Sabha seats in the following polls. Thackeray had threatened to snap ties with the BJP several times, but Mahajan kept them together.
Recently, Thackeray kept the BJP in the dark while drafting a Dalit outfit, the Republican Party of India (Athavale). Thackeray's support for Pratibha Patil and then Pranab Mukherjee for the post of President has also irked the BJP.
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