As Sena turns 50, is it the beginning of the end for the saffron alliance?

  • Ketaki Ghoge, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jun 18, 2016 13:24 IST
As the Sena celebrates 50 years on Sunday and the BJP goes into a huddle, the question is for how long can a common interest drag an unhappy marriage? (HT FILE)

In politics, it is said that there are no permanent friends or foes but only permanent interests.

For the past one-and-a-half years after the Shiv Sena broke off with the BJP, its ally of 25 years, ahead of the 2014 assembly polls, only to join with them later, many obituaries have been written on the saffron alliance.

There is little doubt that the Sena’s trajectory from being the big brother to the smaller one in the alliance post the ascent of PM Narendra Modi and the fact that BJP won 122 seats in the 2014 elections has threatened to weaken the fragile ties between the allies. The deaths of senior BJP leaders, mainly Pramod Mahajan who was the architect of the alliance and his brother-in-law, Gopinath Munde, has only worsened BJP’s ties with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray after the demise of his father, Bal Thackeray.

The only reason they continue to stay together is as the political maxim suggests, ‘permanent interests’, which is to continue to be in power in the state instead of ending the alliance and braving elections. But as the Sena celebrates 50 years on Sunday and the BJP goes into a huddle, the question is for how long can a common interest drag an unhappy marriage?

Analysts say that if the Sena has to survive it will have to break the alliance soon.

“Pramod Mahajan forged the alliance with clear political calibration, to piggyback on the Sena and Bal Thackeray’s popularity, to spread its base in Maharashtra. They have similarly used regional parties in Goa, Rajasthan, Orissa and Bihar. Orissa’s chief minister Naveen Patnaik and Bihar’s Nitish Kumar realised where this was heading and called it quits. Uddhav has to do the same. His chance will be before the Mumbai and Thane municipal elections, the source of strength for the party,’’ said analyst Prakash Bal.

Whether Uddhav can revive the party, which runs on Thackeray’s popularity and the philosophy of street violence, is another question altogether.

Party cadre are keen on a clean break now while its leaders are worried about being out of power for another two years.

In between, it’s the mini-elections — to 26 zilla parishad and 9 municipal corporations including Mumbai — that could prove to be a make or break point for this two-decade-old relationship as both parties will assess the ground situation before taking a final call.

BJP insiders admit that the agenda from the top is ‘Shat Pratishat BJP’ or 100 per cent BJP.

“It’s not just us, even Thackeray hijacked our Hindutva plank to further his image and party. Politics is about opportunism. We have to expand our base in Maharashtra now at the cost of Sena as there won’t be a second chance. But, if we couldn’t manage to do it on our own in 2014, when there was a Modi wave, can we do it in 2019?,’’ said a BJP functionary.

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