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How Modi and Shah Tamed the Tiger, Proved Uddhav’s Sena Was All Roar and No Bite

BJP went the extra mile in Maharashtra because it was unsure of retaining its ‘number one’ position in the state with the coming together of Congress and the NCP again.

Venkatesh Kesari |

Updated:February 19, 2019, 5:46 PM IST
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How Modi and Shah Tamed the Tiger, Proved Uddhav’s Sena Was All Roar and No Bite
BJP chief Amit Shah flanked by Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis during the alliance announcement in Mumbai on Feb 18, 2019. (PTI Photo)
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah have had the last laugh. The Shiv Sena is on board, and the oldest BJP ally is back in the NDA fold for both Lok Sabha and assembly polls slated this year.

Whatever the Shiv Sena may claim, the fact is that Uddhav Thackeray has blinked first in the battle of nerves.

It is a different matter that the BJP has attempted to offer a face saver to its 25-year-old Hindutva ally, which had declared only sometime back that it had “wasted” 25 years in nurturing its partnership with the BJP.

How does one explain the sudden volte face of Thackeray who had not only been sulking but appeared bitter about BJP till two days back? Did Sena get the ‘elder brother’ status back in Maharashtra?

It was in the air for the past more than a week that the Sena-BJP are finally going to bury the hatchet. The body language of the Sena chief at the press conference in Mumbai where the announcement was made showed that he was feeling a bit awkward to say the least.

That he did not answer any questions was proof enough he wanted to evade a situation where he would have had to answer some tough question on his sudden U-turn.

While targeting the BJP and its central leadership till sometime back, Thackeray had said everything including the ‘chowkidar chor hai’ phrase made famous by Rahul Gandhi.

It is to the credit of the BJP that it sought to forget and forgive its recalcitrant ally. For the present, BJP needs the Shiv Sena badly for making the last push in mopping up a decent pre-poll line up.

What needs to be acknowledged is that after bringing the Janata Dal (U) back in the NDA fold with an ‘honourable’ seat share deal with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in Bihar, both Modi and Shah have successfully tamed the ‘tiger’ in Maharashtra ahead of the Lok Sabha and the state assembly polls.

The Shiv Sena's verbal attacks on Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and the BJP through its mouthpiece "Saamana" and public meetings in the last four and a half years had little impact on the BJP government both at the Centre and in the state.

This was perhaps a clear indication that the Sena would roar but not leave the alliance.

BJP went the extra mile in Maharashtra because it was unsure of retaining its ‘number one’ position in the state with the coming together of Congress and the NCP again.

The Uddhav Thackeray-led party wanted to regain the status of an elder brother in the state but it is now compelled to accept the position of an "equal partner".

Besides, its pressure tactics to hold the state assembly polls together with the Lok Sabha has also been turned down by the BJP.

After deciding last year to go solo in all elections, the Shiv Sena has finalised the seat sharing deal with the BJP, which is known for its stand of carving out a separate Vidarbha state out of Maharashtra.

Sena is for a united Maharashtra and the alliance stitched after much bad blood is being seen as a candid admission that it cannot take on the BJP and the Congress-NCP combine simultaneously in the state.

Most importantly, Thackeray finally succumbed to the pressure of his party MPs, legislators and corporators who virtually opposed his line.

In the meantime, the central and state leadership of the BJP tackled the Shiv Sena in the post Balasaheb Thackeray phase with ease and did not encourage its second rung to respond to the Sena's barbs, taunts, open praise of the Congress and backing Rahul Gandhi in the face of direct attack on Modi on the Rafale fighter plane deal.

A weakened Shiv Sena has helped the BJP to be a pan Maharashtra party just as it has been in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, besides Gujarat.

Thackeray's failure to earn new friends and expand the party in Vidarbha and north Maharashtra gave the BJP the political space in the last four years. And, it is expanding with the help of Congress-NCP rebels and not on the RSS network as seen in western Maharashtra and Marathawada regions.

Despite the talk of Hindutva and ideological bonding, the BJP did not give the Shiv Sena its due in power at the Centre and state in the last five years.

Sena insiders, however, are apprehensive that its slackening hold over state polity may embolden governments at the Centre to gradually move towards making Mumbai a Union Territory at a time when the local Marathis are already being pushed out of the megapolis and thus becoming minorities.

The Prime Minister has hailed the decision of the Sena and the BJP to contest the elections together, insisting that it “strengthens the NDA significantly”.

As Maharashtra would witness a keen tussle among rival alliances in the Lok Sabha polls, it is to be seen whether his hope that the NDA would remain the state’s “first and only choice” becomes a reality.
| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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