BJP, Shiv Sena had no option

BJP President Amit Shah flanked by Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray and Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis during the announcement of an alliance between Shiv Sena and BJP for Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, in Mumbai. PTI

The seat-sharing agreement between the BJP and the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, finalised in Mumbai on Monday, was not unexpected, even though there was much brinkmanship and uncertainty about it in the past few months. The Sena had even announced last year that it would go it alone in this year’s elections. It was able to secure a better deal than in the last Lok Sabha elections as it will now contest 23 seats of the total 48 in the state, three seats more than last time. The BJP will contest 25 seats. The agreement also covers the assembly elections which are to take place later this year. The two parties will share the seats equally in the assembly elections, after allotting seats to other allies. There was also agreement about equal sharing of ministerial positions after the assembly elections, though there was no decision on the Sena’s demand for chief ministership. 

Despite all the noises made by the Shiv Sena and the threats it made, there was an inevitability about the agreement because neither party had any other option. The Sena has persistently attacked the BJP and criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi, going as far as to endorse the Congress’ ‘chowkidar chor hain’ slogan. It kept up the attacks on the BJP and the government on every issue. It is not a party given to moderation in language and conduct, and so the attacks were always of the highest order and vehemence. It also contested the last assembly elections and the civic elections in the state on its own and acted like an opposition party. All this may have been a bargaining tactic, because the party has now got more than it had last time. The alliance between the two parties started in 1989, and the Sena may still be unhappy that it lost the senior partner’s role it had then and for many years after that. 

The BJP had to accommodate the Sena because it has bigger stakes in the elections. Neither side was confident of contesting the elections on its own, given the record of the governments at the Centre and in the state. The state government also has to face anti-incumbency sentiment, and widespread discontent of farmers, who are planning another march now. The BJP-Sena alliance also has to contend with a strong alliance between the Congress and NCP. The two parties may have saved an unhappy marriage for now, but there will be challenges. The BJP has claimed that their “ideological partnership’’ is their strength, but that is also a problem because they have to compete on the same turf.

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