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Party spirit ahead of polls: ‘Shiv Sena is, will always be big brother in Maha’

Uddhav discusses elections, drought, farm crisis with MPs; party says no proposal from BJP yet

mumbai Updated: Jan 28, 2019 23:35 IST
Swapnil Rawal
Swapnil Rawal
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Maharashtra,Shiv Sena
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray with Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.(HT Photo)

Building pressure on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is attempting to woo its ally into an alliance before the 2019 general elections, the Shiv Sena on Monday said it was and will always remain the “big brother” in Maharashtra politics. The Sena’s posturing to regain its senior partner status in the alliance indicated it will play hardball over the alliance.

Party chief Uddhav Thackeray met Sena Members of Parliament (MPs) on Monday at his residence to discuss many issues such as election preparedness, drought and farm crisis in Maharashtra, among others. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Rajya Sabha MP and Sena leader Sanjay Raut said, “The Shiv Sena is the big brother (in the alliance with BJP and other parties) and will continue to be so.”

The BJP and the Sena, which formed an alliance in 1989, always had an understanding that the former would contest a larger number of Lok Sabha seats, while the latter would get the maximum number of Assembly seats to contest.

The equation was disturbed after the ‘Modi wave’ catapulted the BJP at the Centre with full majority in May 2014. Subsequently, the BJP went into Assembly elections in Maharashtra without an alliance with the Sena and emerged as the single largest party with 122 out of 288 seats in October 2014. The Sena managed to win 63 seats. The two parties, who share power, are in a tussle since then.

However, in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP has expressed its willingness to forge an alliance with the Sena.

The Sena denied the BJP has given them any seat-sharing formula. “We have not received any such proposal and we are not sitting here to accept one. We reiterate that the Shiv Sena will play the role of an elder brother,” Raut said. He was accompanied by a handful of Sena MPs as he spoke to the media outside Thackeray’s residence.

A senior Sena functionary echoed Raut’s remarks and said that BJP leaders haven’t spoken to Thackeray about an alliance. “The situation has changed from what it was in 2014. There is no wave; people are unhappy. The middle class is reeling under inflation, farmers are in distress and youth are unemployed… Why should we accept anything less than 50:50 ratio in seats,” the functionary asked.

Political observers said the Sena would want to leverage on the BJP’s poor poll performance in the five Assembly elections. Surendra Jondhale, a political analyst, said the Sena cannot forget the “political history” in Maharashtra. “They are facing the issue of existence, so they played the dual role of the opposition and a partner in the ruling coalition… Now the political necessity is of the BJP and the Shiv Sena will definitely exploit it,” Jondhale said.

The Thackeray-led party is expected to take on the BJP-led government in the upcoming budget session. “Thackeray has demanded the income tax threshold be raised from the existing ₹2.5 lakh to ₹8 lakh. The Union government has already decided to offer reservation to economically weaker sections (in the general category) having annual income up to ₹8 lakh. Then people should get relief from income tax as well,” Raut said.

First Published: Jan 28, 2019 23:33 IST