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Frenemies Forever? As BJP Warms up to Shiv Sena, Here’s a Look at the Bitter-Sweet Relationship

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray (left) with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (File photo)

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray (left) with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (File photo)

As Fadnavis’s statement fuels speculations of a potential reunion between the two parties, here’s a look at their three-decade old journey together and against each other.

The rocky relationship between the BJP and Shiv Sena, which has seen several ups and downs in the past, took a new turn on Sunday when Senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis said his party and former ally Shiv Sena are “not enemies" but only have differences of opinions on certain issues.

Responding to a query on whether there is a possibility of the two former allies coming together again, Fadnavis said “appropriate decision" will be taken dependent on the situation. When asked about his recent meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and the possibility of the BJP and Shiv Sena coming together again, Fadnavis said, “There are no ifs and buts in politics. Decisions are taken as per prevailing situations".

This is not the first time that the two parties are attempting to revive their strained relations. As Fadnavis’s statement fuels speculations of a potential reunion between the two arched enemies ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Cabinet expansion, here’s a look at their three-decade old journey together and against each other.

• The saffron parties first came together by becoming a part of the BJP-led NDA in 1989 and contested the Lok Sabha elections together. Both parties were united by the Hindutva ideology. For the BJP this was an opportunity to make inroads in Maharashtra by piggybacking on the regional ally, and for the Shiv Sena this was a move that could help strengthen its appeal in the state in what was back then a Congress stronghold.

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• After the December 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid and the March 1993 Bombay blasts, the alliance ran a bitter campaign against the Congress in the Assembly elections of 1995. The BJP won 65 seats and the Sena one 73, and Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi became the Chief Minister. BJP’s Gopinath Munde was his deputy and Home Minister.

• This, however, did not stop the Hindutva allies from getting into frequent quarrels and their alliance almost came to an end in 1996 when Raj Thackeray, touted to be Bal Thackeray’s political heir apparent, was slammed for his alleged involvement in the Ramesh Kini case of 1996.

• Their bitter-sweet friendship was at display again in 1999 when they fought the elections together but tried to defeat the other’s candidates so that they could win more seats than its ally and lay claim to the post of chief minister. The Sena ended up with 69 MLAs against the BJP’s 56, and after a failed negotiation that lasted for 23 days, The allies negotiated unsuccessfully for 23 days, at the end of which Sharad Pawar’s NCP formed a coalition government with the Congress with Vilasrao Deshmukh as Chief Minister.

• The long-running alliance between the two parties came to end in 2014 for the first time in 25 years after the death of Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray in 2012. But they were back together soon and stayed together throughout the first term of the Narendra Modi government. Riding on the Modi wave, the BJP put forward a tough seat-sharing bargain for Sena for the Assembly polls. The Sena won 63 seats, the BJP 122, and Devendra Fadnavis became Chief Minister. After playing the role of Opposition, the Sena joined the BJP government and was given 12 portfolios.

• In 2019, when Maharashtra went to the polls, Shiv Sena claimed it was promised a 50:50 powersharing formula by the BJP but the saffron party denied the claim categorically. The BJP won 105 seats and Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress won 56, 54 and 44 seats, respectively. The Shiv Sena walked out of the alliance and formed a government with the Congress and NCP.

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first published:July 05, 2021, 15:03 IST