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BJP, Shiv Sena inching closer to alliance?

Over the past few days, the Sena mouthpiece has toned down its attack on the Modi government at the Centre.

mumbai Updated: Dec 04, 2018 08:05 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad
Shailesh Gaikwad
Hindustan Times
Shiv Sena,BJP,uddhav thackeray
Chief minister (CM) Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray were seen sharing the dias at a recent event.(HT file photo)

On Monday, chief minister (CM) Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray shared the dais at an event organized by leaders of Banjara community in Washim in Vidarbha. At the event, the bonhomie between the two was quite visible. Thackeray lauded the CM for taking a decision on Maratha reservation while Fadnavis called Thackeray his “guide.”

The day after 16 percent quota for Maratha community was passed by the state legislature, Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana had a front page story saying this was a reason why the Sena has been in the government and those who were questioning Sena’s intentions would have got their answers.

Over the past few days, the Sena mouthpiece has toned down its attack on the Modi government at the Centre. Following Uddhav Thackeray’s Ayodhya trip, several BJP leaders expressed happiness that the Sena was adopting the Hindu hardline.

In political context, all these instances are an indication that the warring allies are inching closer to an understanding for the upcoming Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. Leaders from both the parties are now talking about the benefit both the parties would get if they stick together.

As CM Fadnavis first said at an HT Leadership Summit in Delhi in October, an alliance is political compulsion of both parties. With Congress and NCP working in tandem to wrest control of Maharashtra from the saffron parties, the latter will have no option but to come together.

The road to this reunion, however, won’t be easy.

Since the two parties were together when they contested 2014 parliamentary elections, a pact for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls won’t be difficult. The problem will be working out a seat sharing agreement for the Assembly elections that are scheduled in the second half of 2019.

Five years ago, both the parties contested Assembly elections separately. After fighting a bitter election, the BJP won 122 seats while Sena bagged 63. The BJP had to take the Sena’s help to run the government. The Sena got bragging rights but not without much benefit since it was given less significant departments.

Top BJP leaders were convinced that the Sena joined the alliance to prevent a split as the BJP was wooing its MLAs. It led to tremendous bitterness between the two parties, with the Sena turning into a harsh critic of the BJP.

Now, this could become a thing of the past if they decide to reunite for polls. Ram temple, Maratha reservation and farm loan waiver could be the issues that will become the common platform for the parties to forge an alliance. However, according to insiders, Uddhav Thackeray would insist that seat-sharing for assembly should be finalized along with that for the Lok Sabha. If that power sharing formula is worked out amicably, things would be easier for both the parties.

This is easier said than done. Insiders from both the parties say the alliance will happen if the two parties agree to a 50-50 seat sharing arrangement, for 288 seats of assembly. In that case, the BJP will have to contest just 23 more seats than what it won last time. Besides, both the parties will stake claim on certain seats won by each other in 2014. Working out an alliance by resolving all these issues would be a tedious task.

Can they do it? A lot would depend on that.

Significantly, while they have been criticizing each other, Fadnavis and Thackeray have ensured that they maintained a cordial relation between them. Both of them have been directly in touch with each other. This personal rapport would help them to iron out differences in case there are obstacles in the way of alliance.

And yes, both of them have one more thing in common: They don’t like NCP Chief Sharad Pawar who is trying to unite anti-BJP forces in Maharashtra.

First Published: Dec 03, 2018 23:59 IST