The pace at which Shiv Sena is changing tunes regarding its alliance partners displays the disorientation within the party.
Not more than a month ago, Shiv Sena- the ally of Bharatiya Janata Party in the state government and the central government had clarified that Shiv Sena will not align with BJP for the upcoming 2019 elections. Not too long ago, the party had also slammed the BJP for its poor treatment of allies and its opportunistic alliance with PDP in Kashmir. The daily editorials in the party’s mouthpiece Saamana bear testimony of the same.
At the time when Shiv Sena doesn’t miss any chance of criticizing the government, the party has decided to support BJP during the No-confidence motion. Earlier today, the Shivsena MP Sanjay Raut said that the government shouldn’t take the opposition for granted. Raut said, “In a democracy, the voice of the opposition should be heard first even if it consists of one person. Even we will speak when it is required.” However, he further added that the Shivsena MPs will vote as the party chief Uddhav Thackeray directs. Just a few hours after this statement by Sanjay Raut, the party issued a whip to all its 18 MPs asking them to be “positively present” in both the houses and “support government’s stand”.
Looking at the past track record of the Maratha party, this decision shouldn’t really come as a surprise. Since last year, the party has been saying that it will break away from BJP. After Uddhav Thackeray made his intentions of contesting elections alone clear, people expected that the official announcement will come at the Mega Dussehra Rally last year. However, neither the announcement was ever made nor the party withdrew from the state or central government. Months after the first indication, Shiv Sena again in its national executive meet in Mumbai reiterated in a statement that the party is no longer an ally with the BJP.
Though the party has been saying that it is discontent with its ally, it does not translate into its action. Shiv Sena’s decision making has always remained full of confusion and contradiction. Neither the party is fully supporting the BJP nor completely admonishing it. At the same time, it is opposing the BJP while still being in the government with it. The pace at which Shiv Sena is changing tunes regarding its alliance partners displays the disorientation within the party. The naïve decision-making skills in the top leadership add to the crisis of the party’s lost political ship.
The Shiv Sena positioned itself in the Maratha heartland riding on the Hindutva agenda. But with the rise of Modi, the BJP has established itself as a Hindu nationalist party in the country. The massive success in 2014, prompted the BJP to be the “Big Brother” in the state. In the fight of electoral battle during assembly elections between BJP’s Hindutva vs Shiv Sena’s Hindutva, BJP triumphed. Post-2014, with the spree of Assembly election wins, the BJP replaced Shiv Sena as the true custodian of Hindutva interest in Maharashtra as well. Though the parties, came together in a post-poll alliance, the strained relations between the two parties remained no secret. So much so, that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis even took a dig at Shiv Sena saying, the one who roars inside a den is not Tiger.
Then why after so much humiliation and degradation by the ally, Shiv Sena is still continuing with the BJP? Is it helpless or is it opportunistic? I would say the party is confused. While it senses the anger on the ground against the Modi government, it is still not confident whether it can survive the subsequent Assembly and General elections against BJP’s massive force. The Palghar election was a trailer to the big picture of 2019. BJP, faced by serial By-poll defeats drew all its cards. From CM Fadnavis to BJP’s star campaigner Yogi Adityanath launched an offensive against the long-time ally Shivsena and won.
Shiv Sena understands it very well that direct face-off with BJP is not in the best interest of the party. Besides, in a tri-cornered contest, Shiv Sena alone stands the fewer chances of winning. Thus, To be or not to be is the eternal confusion that has gripped the Shivsena.