BJP-ShivSena: The Alliance of Ages now on the Edge

ShivSena BJP

Though ShivSena and BJP share the same Hindutva ideology, as electoral alliance partners their ride has been rocky.

With ShivSena leader Arvind Sawant resigning from the Modi cabinet, the ShivSena-BJP are once again set to part their ways. Though ShivSena had said that it will not be the one breaking the “Yuti”, the saffron party is the one making the first move to break the decades-old alliance. BJP, on the other hand, did not come to terms with the demand made by ShivSena for the rotational CM post. Thus, it decided that it will not form a minority government in the state.

As the two parties turn their backs against each other for the second time in the last six years, here is a look at the alliance journey of the parties that shared similar ideologies over the years.

When was the alliance formed?

The BJP-ShivSena alliance was established in 1984 to fight against Congress and the front engineered by Sharad Pawar. Sharad Pawar, the powerhouse Maratha politician had not included the ShivSena in the multi-party coalition as he and then Sena chief Bal Thackeray were vying for same Maratha vote bank. Thackeray had the additional plank of Hindutva.

The BJP was only four years old back then and it was difficult for them to assemble enough electoral support in the state. Bal Thackeray entered into an agreement with the BJP leadership of LK Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee and fielded Shiv Sena candidates on BJP’s election symbol in the 1984 election.’

Also Read: Sanjay Raut claims ShivSena has support of 170 MLAs, Ajit Pawar says he will talk to the leader

Bal Thackeray, by then, had generated significant Hindutva sentiments in Maharashtra for the two parties to come together. A formal alliance was formed for the 1989 Lok Sabha election, in which the BJP was to contest on 22 of the 48 parliamentary seats in the state and Shiv Sena on 6.

The Hindutva ideology

Hindutva ideology bounded them together and presented them as one unit to the voters of Maharashtra. An average voter in Maharashtra does not differentiate between the Shiv Sena and the BJP at state and national level believing they would be one post-election even if they contest on their individual’s symbols.

They hold similar views on contentious issues such as Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute, uniform civil code, Article 370, triple talaq, representation of Muslims in elections, cultural nationalism and even foreign policy. Hindutva keeps them together. But scratch the ideological political surface a little and marks of bitter rivalry would surface.

First ShivSena-BJP government

After Babri Masjid demolition and communal riots in the early 1990s, the Maharashtra Assembly election of 1995 happened in a highly polarised background. This helped the ShivSena-BJP alliance to come to power for the first time in Maharashtra.

Going into the election, Bal Thackeray had settled the question of chief minister’s post declaring the party with more seats would claim it. The ShivSena got it. The BJP got deputy CM’s post. The two parties quarrelled over portfolio allocation and the issues of governance throughout the tenure.

The sabotaging in 1999

The 1999 assembly election saw a tough negotiation for seat-sharing between the two parties. The Shiv Sena conceded 12 more seats to the BJP (117). But when results were declared, the alliance fell short of a majority at 125. The Shiv Sena got 69 seats and the BJP 56.

The defeat of the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance was blamed on sabotage. There were strong rumours that the BJP and the ShivSena candidates tried to defeat each other’s candidates so that their party gets number in the assembly and claim the chief minister’s post, as per the formula set by Bal Thackeray in 1995.

The Shiv Sena wanted to stake claim to form government believing that the number could be managed but the BJP under Advani and Vajpayee was reluctant for short of a majority. The tussle went on for over three weeks but the Shiv Sena and the BJP failed to break the stalemate.

Sharad Pawar, who had only months ago broken away from the Congress and founded his own Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), cobbled up an alliance with his former party and Vilasrao Deshmukh became the chief minister. The coalition remained in power till 2014.

2014 Assembly elections

By 2014, the BJP was on course to fulfil late Pramod Mahajan’s 100 per cent dream going solo in the Maharashtra Assembly election. The ShivSena contested separately and finished second with 63 MLAs to BJP’s 122.

The Shiv Sena declared it would sit in Opposition and did take the benches for some time before joining hands with the BJP in the Devendra Fadnavis government. The BJP obliged its now junior ally with a dozen portfolios that many consider were insignificant ones.

This explains why the Shiv Sena and its mouthpiece Saamana was overtly critical of a government it was very much part of throughout the five-year tenure.

2019 Lok Sabha Elections

The two parties appeared to have buried their hatchet ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha election which, surprisingly, gave more than expected seats to the Shiv Sena in the alliance 23. Now, it has appeared that Shiv Sena was apparently promised a 50-50 formula if the alliance came back to power. That promise has come back to haunt the BJP.

The Shiv Sena interprets 50-50 formula in government as rotational chief ministership while the BJP says it meant equal share in portfolio allocation and decision-making process. This fits perfectly in the frenetic competition between the BJP and the Shiv Sena for greater occupancy in the same space of ideology, vote base and ultimately power.

Now again the CM post is the reason for the alliance to be on hold. As the early development, Central Minister Arvind Sawant gave resignation to form Government in Maharashtra. The alliance is broke in cold words. BJP yesterday stake not to hold Government in Maharashtra will sit in Opposition let Shivsena- NCP-INC to form government wishing them good luck.

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