Home / Politics / News /  The word alliance does not exist in Shiv Sena’s dictionary, says Sanjay Raut

Mumbai: Uncertainty clouds the future of the Shiv Sena’s alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) barely four months ahead of the 2019 elections to the Lok Sabha. The Sena has been extremely critical of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and the Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra.

Senior Sena leader and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut, who is also the executive editor of Sena mouthpiece Saamna, dismisses questions over the alliance, asserting that the word ‘alliance’ does not exist any longer in the Shiv Sena’s dictionary. Raut is also the producer of a biopic on Balasaheb Thackeray that releases on 25 January. Edited excerpts of an interview:

Indian cinema hasn’t produced too many political biopics that aren’t hagiographies. How would you describe the Thackeray biopic against this backdrop?

It is true that we have not had good movies on political themes and biopics. There have been biopics on Sardar Patel, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, and Veer Savarkar that were not commercially successful. It is ironic that the best biopic on Mahatma Gandhi was made by a foreigner (British filmmaker Richard Attenborough). However, a non-political biopic on Milkha Singh received critical acclaim and was also a commercial success because it not only used some good cinematic techniques but also had the necessary masala. The biopic on Balasaheb portrays the man that he was and not just the politician or the Shiv Sena founder. This is the first part of the biopic and focuses on the phase from 1965 to 1995.

There are many myths and legends about Balasaheb, such as the one that says he was all about aggressive Hindutva only and was parochial.

The film does not present Balasaheb as a uni-dimensional man, which he wasn’t. It explores the birth and rise of the phenomenon called Balasaheb Thackeray, how he was born because the times demanded someone like him, how people created Balasaheb, how people felt the need for a leader such as him in those times. Mahatma Gandhi is not just a person but a thought that still exists. In this country, one could agree or disagree with that thought but one cannot ignore it. Likewise, one could agree or disagree with Balasaheb but one cannot ignore him. Many of the things Balasaheb stood for in the sixties and was criticised for have become mainstream politics 55 years later.

There are regional parties now, which legitimately prioritise the interests of the sons of the soil. Even national parties such as the Congress do that in states where they are ruling. Kamal Nath (Madhya Pradesh chief minister) rightly said that 70% jobs in Madhya Pradesh should go to locals. When Balasaheb said this in the sixties, he was called anti-national and parochial. However, he was undeterred and remained committed to the cause of the sons of the soil.

The movie looks at these aspects and also shows Balasaheb’s critics and their point of view. Like The Accidental Prime Minister, the Thackeray biopic does not caricature anybody including Balasaheb’s critics nor has it been made with an eye on elections. It is a tribute to Balasaheb, the man, but is not a cinematic hagiography.

What exactly is the status of your alliance with BJP?

Don’t ask questions about alliance. We have thrown that word out of our dictionary.

Are you in talks with the BJP as there are only a few months left for the elections? The Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party have nearly finalised their alliance.

There are no talks from our side and we don’t even want to talk about it with the media. Elections are approaching but we are concerned only about the Shiv Sena. It is not mandatory for us to think or talk about an alliance because the Congress and NCP have come together. Let each party do what it wants and we will do what we want.

Why has the relationship with the BJP deteriorated so much?

There is no deterioration in relationship. They are looking after their party, we are concerned with ours. It is only fair in politics that each party does what it is in its best interests.

In the last few months, hasn’t the BJP become more conciliatory?

I don’t know. We have become deaf and dumb when it comes to noticing such things. We are not even interested in talking about what the BJP does. We should not be asked questions about an alliance simply because we were not the ones who broke the alliance in 2014. It was the BJP which did that and we passed a resolution in our national executive that we will go alone.

Isn’t the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance based on Hindutva and somewhat similar ideology?

It used to be an alliance between like-minded parties that were committed to Hindutva. We still are committed to Hindutva and will always remain so but the BJP in the last four and a half years has not done anything that proves its commitment to Hindutva. It has no right to teach us about Hindutva. In the past when we fought elections together on the issue of Hindutva, it was Shiv Sena that made so many sacrifices to keep the alliance intact so that the Hindu vote does not split. But what has the BJP done? It started talking about Ram mandir after Uddhav Saheb went to Ayodhya but the Modi government has not moved an inch ahead on the BJP’s manifesto promise of building the Ram mandir.

What is your sense of the next Lok Sabha elections?

The next elections will throw up a hung Lok Sabha. One indication of this is that Nitin Gadkari is waiting in the wings to head a government that does not have majority.

How do you look at the Mahagathbandhan or state-level strategic alliances against the BJP?

Congress president Rahul Gandhi has infused some life in the party and people in three states have endorsed his leadership.... The Congress is actually the permanent national party and is certainly on the revival path. No alliance among the opposition parties will be successful unless the Congress is given its due.

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