The Shiv Sena passed a resolution Tuesday that they will be contesting all elections independently, including the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and Lok Sabha polls in 2019. They are presently in a coalition with the Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra and the Modi government at the Centre.
ThePrint asks: Can the Shiv Sena be in the opposition and the government at the same time?
The Shiv Sena may criticise the BJP, but it hasn’t opposed any of its policies so far
Spokesperson of Maharashtra BJP
We need to understand the background of the alliance before answering this question. The BJP and Shiv Sena have fought elections together for over 25 years. We, the BJP, have always tried to maintain and further this alliance. After all, under the broader umbrella of Hindutva, the ideologies of the two parties are aligned.
However, the myth that the alliance helped the BJP grow in Maharashtra is a complete lie. When the alliance was first formed at the municipal level in 1986, the BJP had 11 seats while the Shiv Sena only had one or two in the Maharashtra state assembly.
It is true that the success rate of the alliance is good, but BJP’s strike rate is higher than that of Shiv Sena. From 1989, the first time the alliance competed for assembly seats (Vidhan Sabha and Lok Sabha), to the 2014 elections, the BJP’s hard work has helped it grow exponentially in Maharashtra. The credibility and popularity of Narendra Modi has only helped it expand further.
After the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the alliance hit a rocky patch. That’s because the Shiv Sena refused to give a few more seats to the BJP and declared their 151+ target, meaning they would win the assembly election on their own. Due to the Shiv Sena’s adamant stand, the BJP fought election solo and the results are here for everyone to see. The BJP won 123 seats, while Shiv Sena got 63.
Even last year, almost every district in Maharashtra has seen an election, and the BJP led in all of them, while the Shiv Sena trailed. Uddhav Thackeray, right before the Mumbai civic body poll election, had declared the party would contest independently. The BJP won a stellar 82 seats without their support anyway, while the Sena got 84 seats.
All this questions the very credibility of the Shiv Sena. They have ministers at the state and central level. How can they say this is not their government? Interestingly, while the Sena criticises the BJP publicly, its ministers never oppose the BJP government’s proposals. History shows that Shiv Sena doesn’t have the best track record while contesting alone.
Contesting polls on its own is not about winning, the Shiv Sena wants to assert itself as an independent party.
Being part of the ruling government allows the Shiv Sena to occupy a significant space in Maharashtra politics, and maintain their image of being a strong party.
However, the choice to be a part of the government is not completely autonomous.
Firstly, it is a compulsion for Shiv Sena to work in the government because they have been a part of this coalition for the last 25 years. Of course, this political compulsion entails benefits that come with being a part of the ruling government.
Secondly, when the choice came to pass in 2014, the Shiv Sena feared that if they chose to opt out of the government, its more ambitious leaders may leave and join the BJP. Uddhav Thackeray managed to avert that exodus, despite the Narendra Modi wave. He has consolidated himself as an able, and strong, voice in the party.
He has also increased the Shiv Sena’s base from just the urban metropolises to remote areas like South Maharashtra. Thackeray proved his mettle by winning 63 seats in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. They have a stronghold in the urban belt, and a significant presence in the rural one.
However, none of this is enough to tide them over 2019. Contesting the elections on its own is not about winning. It is about the Shiv Sena’s need to assert itself as an independent party. There is no possibility that it will ally with any other party. They have to consolidate their image as a party that can make its own decisions.
Shiv Sena has no moral right to condemn BJP’s policies because it is complicit.
President, Mumbai Regional Congress Committee
There are three things to note here.
First of all, the Shiv Sena has cried wolf over 300 times in the last 3 years. How seriously we should take their latest declaration, I will leave up to them.
Secondly, the Shiv Sena is a regional party that held a National Executive Meeting. They have passed a resolution with proper procedure. Perhaps, that allows us to take them a little seriously.
Thirdly, if they are seriously announcing that they will contest alone, it means that the BJP has become a liability for them.
Clearly, they have assessed that the people of Maharashtra are dissatisfied with their policies, whether it is GST, demonetization or the general decline in the economy. A recent report has shown 73 per cent of India’s wealth has come to be concentrated in the hands of 1 per cent of its people over the last year.
The Shiv Sena wants to go solo because there is dissatisfaction with the present policies of the BJP.
And that is where Shiv Sena’s hypocrisy becomes most apparent. They have no moral right to condemn the BJP’s policies, because they are complicit in supporting them. They cannot blame only the BJP for their anti-poor stand, because they are a part of the ruling party at the state and Centre. Under the Modi regime, nearly 12 crore people are unemployed. The Shiv Sena must share the blame for these, they must take responsibility for their actions.
If the Shiv Sena believes these policies are wrong then why did they support them? To be taken seriously, the Shiv Sena must quit before they make a bid to contest elections on their own. They must realise that they and the BJP are equally responsible for the increasing number of farmer suicides.
The people of Maharashtra can see that, and will remember it in 2019.
The result of Fadnavis government’s pre-Boards is out
Shiv Sena MLC
We are disillusioned with the political will of the BJP-led government and it has become a political compulsion for us to stand with the people.
We are going through a phase of transformation from having been in an alliance for more than two decades to establishing our own independent contribution. We contested the 2014 assembly elections solo because there was no mutually acceptable solution for an alliance. The government was formed, but it did not have the mandate to implement its power, and as per people’s mandate, Shiv Sena was number 2.
For 15 years, being part of the opposition against the Congress-NCP government we had consistently raised issues of scams, farmers’ welfare and national integrity. The legislature works as per a certain procedure. The Congress and the NCP usually align on issues and take a stand. If we were independent and not part of the Fadnavis government, we would have had to align with the Congress and NCP on issues that we had been earlier raising as an opposition against the two parties.
We have never simply opposed for the sake of it when we were in the opposition. We have worked with the BJP-led government for three years. Whatever differences of opinions we have with the government today are because of non-implementation of certain issues despite the fact that we have consistently raised them, viz., poor governance, and lack of integrity and transparency.
For instance, so many farmers died in Vidarbha due to pesticides. We tried to follow up to our best extent, but the government has still not given any clarity on who was responsible. Similarly, there has been no effort by the government to control the prices of everyday foodgrains for common citizens and poor people.
All issues that we have raised within the government are related to public welfare. The resolutions that Shiv Sena passed Tuesday in its national executive meet are also issues of farmers — be it the implementation of the Swaminathan committee recommendations or pension for farm labourers.
In the cabinet, unless proposals come from the chief minister or chief secretary, there is no decision. So, at times, the Shiv Sena has to find out-of-the-box ways of forcing solutions, like we did in the case of the farm loan waiver.
What we can say is that the result of this government’s preliminary exam before the finals is out. Uddhav-saheb has expressed the party’s discontent with the government. He has shown us a clear direction to go forward.
Compiled by Deeksha Bhardwaj