Mumbai: Since May 2014, when Narendra Modi led the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a historic victory, instances when the BJP and its ally Shiv Sena have indulged in a public demonstration of affection have been rare. While the BJP under Modi and its itinerant president Amit Shah displays the confidence of the conqueror, the Shiv Sena and its chief Uddhav Thackeray have sometimes been caustic about the BJP and Modi.

This weekend, expect some bonhomie to brew between the saffron brothers.

On 19 August, in Mumbai, senior BJP leader and Union minister for finance and defence Arun Jaitley will release two compilations of the late Balasaheb Thackeray’s interviews published in Sena mouthpiece Saamna over time. Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar, a long-time frenemy of the late Balasaheb is to preside over the event. Uddhav Thackeray will share the stage with Jaitley and Pawar, who too share a warm relationship.

“It will be a personal and political event. Balasaheb was not only the Sena’s founder but also the original ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’ (emperor of the Hindu hearts) who is dear to the entire Hindutva political movement. Even BJP cadres respect him as much as they do Atalji (Atal Bihari Vajpayee) and Advaniji (L.K. Advani). That is why we have invited Jaitley," said a senior Sena leader and member of Parliament who did not want to be identified. He added that Thackeray was the “only politician in the entire country who stood by Modi during the 2002 Gujarat riots".

In 1989 when the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance was only a few years old, Balasaheb Thackeray founded Saamna to broadcast his and the Shiv Sena’s point of view. The senior Thackeray remained the editor of the Marathi daily till he died in November 2012. Over a period of two decades, Thackeray gave dozens of “turbulent interviews" to Saamna executive editor and now the Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut. Apart from being a general broadside on his political rivals, the interviews were also a commentary on the political affairs of the time. The two volumes that Jaitley will release on 19 August have compiled a chosen hundred of these interviews.

The Sena MP cited in the first instance said the interviews selected in the two compilations offered a “very pertinent commentary" on the political and social developments as Balasaheb saw them and which “still keep recurring". “There are his comments on the Hindu-Muslim problem, BJP’s constant struggle with taking a clear stand on many issues like Kashmir, Hindutva, and the Uniform Civil Code. That is why we wanted someone as senior as Jaitley to speak on the compilations." 

After Balasaheb’s death, the stewardship of the Sena and editorship of Saamna passed on to Uddhav Thackeray. Since 2014, the Sena mouthpiece has taken critical editorial positions against the Modi government on numerous issues including demonetisation.

Uddhav Thackeray, who is not as sharp-tongued and mercurial as his father, has nevertheless carried forward the tradition of what Raut terms “explosive interviews".

A BJP MP who did not want to be identified, described these interviews as “dictations" but also admitted that Saamna was a good “special purpose vehicle" deployed by the Shiv Sena to reach out to its cadres. “It sells some 40,000 copies but its significance should not be counted in its circulation numbers. Through Saamna, Balasaheb would talk directly to his cadres almost each day. It is almost a personal communication between the leader and the cadres."

This person added that the event would reassert the point that the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance was a “natural alliance" built on the foundation of “Hindutva and development".

Close