Mumbai: For the past four-and-half years, the Shiv Sena bitterly criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA government through acerbic editorials in its mouthpiece Saamana.
However, a day after the BJP swept the country and repeated its 2014 record performance in Maharashtra along with the Sena, the front page of Saamana Friday featured a photograph of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis feeding sweets to Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.
The editorial page of Saamana, which earlier used to be full of barbs aimed at the BJP, said, “People decided and voted to make Modi the prime minister again. This is the victory of Modi’s popularity and Amit Shah’s political management skills.”
The Lok Sabha result for Maharashtra, which the BJP-Shiv Sena dominated by winning 41 of the 48 seats, is likely to go a long way in fixing the previously shaky relationship between the two allies.
However, much depends on how the BJP will accommodate the Shiv Sena, which is a part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) with the second highest seats, in the Union cabinet. It will also hinge on how the BJP works out the intricacies of power-sharing in the upcoming Maharashtra Assembly elections, especially with the chief minister’s post, said Shiv Sena leaders.
‘Shiv Sena should get its due’
A former Shiv Sena MP and a senior party functionary said, “We have been the most faithful NDA ally, have the biggest representation in the alliance after the BJP. We should have ideally got at least two cabinet berths in 2014 itself.”
He added, “This time, relations between the two parties are better than what it was in 2014, and the Maharashtra BJP leadership is upbeat about the alliance. We hope we get our due and things don’t go south like in 2014 when the BJP deserted us after winning big.”
Even as the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance individually helped each other to comfortably dominate Maharashtra, numbers show the BJP has outpaced the Sena, and the alliance may have helped the Uddhav Thackeray-led party retain its ground more than the BJP.
This election, the Shiv Sena lost from some of its strongholds such as Amravati, Shirur, Raigad and Aurangabad due to anti-incumbency against its candidates. The Amravati and Aurangabad constituencies had been with the Shiv Sena for 20 years, while the party had held on to Shirur and Raigad ever since the constituencies were created after the 2008 delimitation.
The ‘Modi factor’ contributed immensely in helping the Shiv Sena secure victory in several other seats. The party’s strike rate, which is the percentage of the number of seats it won, dropped to 78 per cent from 90 per cent in 2014, but its vote share increased to 23.3 per cent from 20.82 per cent in 2014.
The BJP, meanwhile, won 23 of the 25 seats it contested and recorded a vote share of 27.56 per cent, exactly the same as in 2014.
Another Shiv Sena leader, who won the Lok Sabha election but did not want to be named, said, “This time it will be different from 2014. The BJP has already agreed to an equal share of seats in the assembly election, including an equal share of key portfolios. We don’t think the BJP will go back on its word under Fadnavis’ leadership. At the most, there may be some minor debates on particular seats.”
Optics show all well in alliance
Allies for 25 years, the BJP and Shiv Sena parted ways before the 2014 assembly elections over seat-sharing disputes. The Sena later supported the Fadnavis government in the state, but the assembly results had overturned the alliance’s equation, putting the BJP on a stronger footing than the Sena, upsetting the latter.
What followed were four-and-half years of constant tiffs and bitter criticism against each other. The parties united to contest the Lok Sabha election just two months before the polls.
Fadnavis, who has been a constant proponent of the Sena-BJP alliance, was the key deal broker from the BJP’s side.
Even Thursday when the BJP scripted a stratospheric success, Fadnavis first thanked Thackeray in a press conference for his whole-hearted help to the alliance. He later headed to Matoshree, the Thackeray residence, with senior BJP leaders Vinod Tawde, Ashish Shelar, and Girish Mahajan, and Republican Party of India (RPI) chief Ramdas Athawale. Photos of a beaming Thackeray and Fadnavis sharing sweets with each other went viral on WhatsApp, and the two leaders jointly addressed a celebratory press conference later.
When a reporter asked who is likely to be the elder brother in the assembly election, Thackeray promptly replied, “Why do you worry? We will work out our own affairs. Just come to the same venue to eat sweets after the assembly results.”
Fadnavis said, “I will only say this. My elder brother is Uddhav Thackeray, and his elder brother is Modiji.”