Home >elections >Lok Sabha Elections 2019 >Hindutva, nationalism bring BJP, Shiv Sena together again

Mumbai: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena formally announced on Monday their pre-poll alliance for the upcoming Lok Sabha and Maharashtra elections, ending a prolonged phase of bitterness and uncertainty.

According to the seat-sharing agreement reached between the parties, the BJP would contest 25 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra in the upcoming general elections. For the Maharashtra elections later in 2019, the parties would equally divide the 288 assembly seats after their allies have been accommodated.

BJP president Amit Shah, Shiv Sena's Uddhav Thackeray, and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis announced the alliance at a press conference in Mumbai. The leaders said the two parties were renewing their 30-year-old alliance on the “ideological foundations of Hindutva and nationalism as well their commitment to solve the grievances of farmers and make India a superpower".

The Maharashtra government has also decided to move the Ratnagiri refinery project out of Ratnagiri as the Shiv Sena was opposed to the project on the grounds that the local population would lose their farming livelihoods, Fadnavis said.

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“The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance is not just an alliance of two parties. It is an ideological friendship. Along with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Shiv Sena is our oldest ally and we have stuck together all these years despite some differences. Crores of our cadres wanted this to happen," Shah said, adding that the alliance would win “minimum 45 Lok Sabha seats" in Maharashtra.

Thackeray said crores of Hindus and nationalist people in India wanted the alliance to happen. “There is a gang-up of not like-minded but ill-minded parties who are coming together only to defeat Shiv Sena and BJP. Do we want to give another chance to a party that has ruled India for 55 years? We don’t want that. We want a strong Maharashtra and strong India and we are coming together for that vision," Thackeray said.

Fadnavis echoed the same sentiment.

As the announcement of the alliance comes against the backdrop of a prolonged phase of bitterness, the BJP and the Shiv Sena ensured the optics were right on Monday.

Shah landed in Mumbai around 4pm and held meeting with Maharashtra BJP leaders at a prominent hotel. He then drove to Matoshri, the Thackeray residence, where he and Fadnavis held talks with Thackeray and his son Aaditya Thackeray.

Later, Shah, Thackeray, Fadnavis, and Aaditya drove to another hotel together for the press conference where images of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Balasaheb Thackeray were placed.

The BJP and Shiv Sena fought the 2014 Lok Sabha elections together and won 23 and 18 seats, respectively, with another NDA ally winning a seat. The landslide win heightened the BJP’s aspirations in Maharashtra, alarming the Shiv Sena which not only had described itself as the “big brother" of the alliance but also behaved like one.

In September 2014, just a month before Maharashtra elections, talks between the allies broke down and the 25-year-old alliance fell through.

While the Shiv Sena continued to be a part of the BJP-led NDA at the Centre, it fought a bitter assembly election against the BJP in Maharashtra in October 2014.

The BJP contested 260 seats and won 122 while the Shiv Sena contested 282 and won 63. After the polls, the Shiv Sena came around to join the BJP-led government but continued to sulk.

In January 2018, the Shiv Sena national executive passed a resolution saying the party would contest all future elections on its own. Thackeray and Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana routinely launched broadsides against the Narendra Modi government, going to the extent of endorsing Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s “chowkidar chor hain" refrain against the prime minister.

The BJP-Shiv Sena tie-up is India’s second oldest alliance after the Left coalition that ruled West Bengal for more than three decades. The saffron parties formalized their alliance in 1989 in an astute acknowledgement of changing sociopolitical dynamic in Maharashtra.

By the late 80s, the Shiv Sena, founded in 1966, realized the limitations to its son-of-the-soil politics as demographics in Maharashtra had changed. Meanwhile, nationally, the BJP leveraged the Hindutva card and emerged as an alternative to the Congress.

Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray reckoned that an alliance with the BJP would bring the non-Marathi votes into the saffron fold. The BJP saw the electoral merit in ensuring support of Marathi voters in Maharashtra through the Shiv Sena.

In 1995, the alliance won power in Maharashtra for the first time, though the Shiv Sena was the actual big brother—winning more seats and electing its own chief minister.

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