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Monday, Aug 26, 2019

BJP, Shiv Sena seal deal to contest Lok Sabha, Maharashtra polls together

The parties have had a strained relationship for four-and-a-half years. Their alliance indicates the leaders have recognised the changing political ground realities.

mumbai Updated: Feb 19, 2019 07:36 IST
Ketaki Ghoge
Ketaki Ghoge
Hindustan Times
BJP President Amit Shah with Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Maharashtra Cm Devendra Fadnavis on Monday.
BJP President Amit Shah with Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Maharashtra Cm Devendra Fadnavis on Monday.(PTI)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena on Monday said they will fight both the Lok Sabha and state Assembly elections together. The parties have had a strained relationship for four-and-a-half years. Their alliance indicates the leaders have recognised the changing political ground realities.

Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis justified the alliance saying the parties shared a common “Hindutva” ideology, while Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray sought to deflect criticism over tying up with the BJP after promising to fight the elections solo, saying, “All Hindus have looked forward to this day”.

The parties announced their pre-poll alliance after BJP president Amit Shah and Fadnavis visited Thackeray and his son Aaditya at their Bandra residence, Matoshree, and held one last round of negotiations on Monday evening.

The alliance for the 288-member Assembly elections, however, comes at a political cost for the BJP, with the party agreeing to an equal sharing of both seats and power in the state if the parties win. The seats will be shared equally after smaller parties and allies are given their quota.

There is ambiguity over whether the chief minister’s post would also be shared equally, as this was not finalised in the negotiations.

Senior BJP leaders said the deal indicated a more egalitarian sharing of portfolios and the likelihood of creating the post of a deputy chief minister — which the current government does not have.

For the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP has decided to contest 25 of the 48 seats, while the Sena will contest 23.

During alliance talks, the Sena had demanded the Palghar Lok Sabha seat, which the BJP currently holds.

A senior BJP leader said the party has agreed to this demand, even though the BJP had won it in 2014 and later in a bypoll last year.

But it was not formally announced as the party has not decided how to rehabilitate the incumbent MP, Rajendra Gavit.

Fadnavis, Shah and Uddhav Thackeray portrayed a united front when they announced the alliance together, in the presence of senior ministers and leaders from both parties, including Union ministers Piyush Goyal and Prakash Javdekar, state BJP president Raosaheb Danve, former CM Manohar Joshi, senior Sena minister Subhash Desai and veteran Sena leader Leeladhar Dhake, among other leaders. Union minister Nitin Gadkari and senior BJP leader Eknath Khadse were not present.

The leaders said justified the alliance saying both parties believed in a common “Hindutva” ideology. “We have been in an alliance for the past 25 years. We have had our difference of opinion over issues, but fundamentally, we are Hindutva parties, our basic ideology is the same,” Fadnavis said. “In the last assembly polls, we could not stay together for some reasons but we still came together to run the government at the Centre and in the state,” he said. Fadnavis added that the alliance was important considering “some people and forces are coming together to challenge nationalists thoughts“. He said, “Public opinion is that we should contest together. Hence we will contest both Lok Sabha and assembly polls together. This alliance is not based on only seat-or-power-sharing but on a common ideological platform and public welfare.”

The Shiv Sena’s justification to align with the BJP after four years of acerbic criticism is also on the grounds that the Fadnavis accepted some of its main demands. These include a commitment to build the Ram temple in Ayodhya,shifting the Nanar oil refinery project from Konkan, and reviewing the loan waiver scheme to extend it to farmers who were left out due to technical flaws. For residents of Mumbai and Thane, Sena demanded a property tax waiver for those living in 500 sqft homes. This proposal has been pending with the state government.

Anticipating criticism for going back on his promise of contesting all elections solo, Thackeray said, “If our ideology is the same, then it is better for us to come together than let those whom we have fought against for decades come to power because of our misunderstanding. All Hindus have been looking forward to this day.’’ Thackeray added, “We won’t forget everything, we would like to remember what happened because we want to ensure that such bitterness does not come in our way again. We would like to make a fresh start.’’

He said the Sena had taken a certain stance over issues of ideology, public welfare and governance, many of which were addressed by the CM. “The Ram mandir is non-negotiable for us, and that was our original agenda when we first came together. The BJP has now committed to building the temple as soon as possible. Nanar oil refinery (in Konkan) was also a demand as there was opposition from locals and we had demanded that it be shifted out,’’ he added.

Amit Shah said the alliance would wrest all 45 seats in the Lok Sabha polls. “The Sena and Akali Dal are our oldest allies, who have stayed with us through thick and thin. Our alliance has been based on common ideology. There were some differences of opinion, but today, all these misconceptions have been sorted out. Both BJP and Sena party workers will now start a joint campaign to bring the NDA government under PM Narendra Modi back to power,’’ Shah said.

The leaders did not entertain questions from the media.

The Sena was the BJP’s and PM Modi’s harshest critic over the past four years, sometime harsher than the Opposition. Most recently, Thackeray had raised questions over the Rafale deal and echoed Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s jibes to Modi.

The Opposition slammed the Sena over the alliance on Monday. Leader of the Opposition in the legislative Assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, alleged the Sena was compelled to join hands with the BJP owing to the fear of an inquiry by the Enforcement Directorate. State NCP president Jayant Patil posed questions to Thackeray, reminding him of all the remarks he had made against the PM Modi and BJP government

First Published: Feb 19, 2019 00:35 IST

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