Shiv Sena announced on Tuesday that the party will contest 2019 Lok Sabha elections and Maharashtra Assembly elections on its own – ‘unfriending’ a friend it accused of making incorrect policies and having a faulty leadership. The decision to part ways for major upcoming elections may be a first but the accusations are certainly not.
Here’s a quick recap of just how tumultuous the bonhomie has been:
* Sena and BJP have been allies in Maharashtra for close to three decades. Sena has been the dominant of the two parties in the state for several years but has hardly had much impact elsewhere.
* Their alliance has been a relationship of convenience with the dual objective of a) keeping Congress at bay, and b) harping on the Hindutva agenda. BJP’s gradual rise in the state and elsewhere though may have tickled Sena the wrong way.
* For the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Sena and BJP opted to take arms on their own. Sena did not want to be second-rung to BJP in a state in which it had previously led the Saffron brigade. Months after the elections and after a resounding BJP win however, Sena opted to ally with the party because BJP fell just 23 short of the 145-seat mark needed for a simple majority. With no bragging rights though, Sena failed to get prime portfolios – the primary seed for discontent.
* Sena expected to fare well in the 2017 Municipal elections – a prediction which came completely undone. Fighting the elections alone, Sena was a distant second to BJP in almost everywhere – barring Mumbai and some small pockets. BJP’s dominant performance yet again, say political experts, further added to Sena’s possible insecurity. It would go on to accuse BJP of using money and muni (monk) to win the polls.
* Sena has also repeatedly attacked the Narendra Modi government on a host of issues – GST, reaction to criticism on social media, taking ‘undue’ credit for farm loan waivers and for fanning communal passions.
* Former Maharashtra CM Narayan Rane became a thorn in Sena-BJP relations last year. In 2005, Rane had opposed the rise of Uddhav Thackeray and eventually quit Sena. He joined Congress but quit from the party last year. Reports were rife that an entry into BJP was around the corner – infuriating Sena. He would eventually establish his own party – Maharashtra Swabhimani Paksha – and declare support for BJP-led NDA. Last month, CM Devendra Fadnavis said that Rane would be ‘politically rehabilitated.’ Sena has opposed his entry into the cabinet.
This is indeed a tale of political love going completely sour. While BJP remains confident of a strong performance in elections scheduled in 2019, Sena has to possibly re-jig its strategy to reclaim lost ground in the state.