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Shiv Sena turn 52 today: Will it stick to BJP or go solo?

Uddhav Thackeray’s decisions over the next few years will decide whether his party will continue to play second fiddle to the BJP or emerge as a strong, independent party.

mumbai Updated: Jun 19, 2018 12:15 IST
Swapnil Rawal
Swapnil Rawal
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Shiv Sena,Uddhav Thackeray
Uddhav Thackeray is likely to reiterate the party’s stand of going solo in the upcoming Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly elections(HT File Photo)

As the Shiv Sena turns 52 on Tuesday, it faces an important question – To fight alone or reunite with ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the upcoming elections?

According to political observers, Uddhav Thackeray’s decisions over the next few years will decide whether his party will continue to play second fiddle to the BJP or emerge as a strong party. Although the BJP and Sena are contemplating a pre-poll alliance, Thackeray is likely to reiterate the party’s stand of going solo in the upcoming Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly elections on Tuesday.

A senior Sena leader said Thackeray will remain firm on his stand despite the BJP’s repeated overtures and a visit by BJP national president Amit Shah to Thackeray’s house to mend the ties.

Senior leaders said the leadership will wait-and-watch. “Given our experience, we are treading cautiously. In the meantime, our leader’s decision [to contest solo] stands. We will continue to be aggressive,” said a senior party leader, requesting anonymity.

According to the leader, the party is wary of the BJP’s promise and wants a decision on seat-sharing for both the Lok Sabha and state elections before agreeing to an alliance.

The party will take on the BJP on Tuesday too. “At the event, eminent personalities will speak on inflation, economic scenario, development and the agrarian crisis,” said Anil Desai, Sena secretary, and Rajya Sabha MP, adding the party will also kickstart a membership drive on Tuesday. “We plan to enrol 1 crore members from across the state.”

The Sena is also unsure if it will be included in the Maharashtra cabinet expansion that will happen before the monsoon session begins on July 4. “Uddhavji has not decided on the issue as yet,” a senior party functionary said.

Accepting more cabinet berths could be tricky for Thackeray, as there are many disgruntled party MLAs, who have demanded a reshuffle of the Sena minister. Balancing the demands and strategy for the polls could be a tightrope walk for Thackeray.

Meanwhile, political observer Surendra Jondhale said “identity” and “governance” are the main challenges for the Sena. “Being in a coalition, it will not get credit for policies or governance. It has to re-consider its brand of politics. The Sena started on a regional plank– Marathi manoos and Marathi Asmita – and then added Hindutva. The scenarios have changed now. The BJP has successfully adopted the development plank to seek votes, which has resonated with people,” he said.

Prakash Bal, a political analyst, said the Sena has to take a call on its strategy within a year. “The BJP has realised that they can’t win without an alliance. The BJP wants the Sena along, but it does not want to give it prominence. If the Sena wants to be an effective political party in the state, it has to decide if it wants to drag itself with the BJP or confront it,” Bal said.

First Published: Jun 19, 2018 12:14 IST