Shiv Sena: An untrustworthy ally and a sorry excuse for the party Balasaheb Thackeray built

In a democracy, allies are very important, for they help you in legitimising your claim to power but one should always keep in mind the wise words of Benjamin Franklin- "Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools, that don't have brains enough, to be honest."

Despite its constant criticism of the BJP-led government in the centre and in Maharashtra by Shiv Sena, CM Devendra Fadnavis has dismissed speculations about BJP-Sena split and has kept his hopes alive of fighting the 2019 Lok Sabha elections together.

Addressing the session ‘4 Saal Kitna Kamaal?’ of ‘Mumbai Manthan’, Devendra Fadnavis asserted that the Shiv Sena is a part of the BJP-led governments at the Centre and in Maharashtra. “The Shiv Sena and the BJP would not have come together in the two governments if they had to contest separately.”

Downplaying the incongruous voices within Shiv Sena, Fadnavis seemed confident about continuing the partnership with the Shiv Sena in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in 2019. He also declared that there are only two parties in the country who talk about Hindus and Hinduism- the BJP and the Shiv Sena.

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However, the relationship between the BJP and Shiv Sena hasn’t been going very well for some time now. There has been a marked deterioration in their relationship. The strain in the alliance partners is also because of Sena’s unsparing attack on its ally, which particularly intensified after the BJP secured 82 seats in the 2017 BMC elections, almost equalising Sena’s tally of 84.

Shiv Sena is based on pro-Marathi ideology and Hindu nationalism, which was founded on 19 June 1966 by political cartoonist Balasaheb Thackeray. His charismatically enchanting personality and plucky demeanour caught fancy of the people of Maharashtra.

People started affiliating with the party in droves. In a sense he was successful in tapping into the latent disgruntlement brewing among the local Maharashtrians and with a tadka of Hindu nationalism, he managed to capture the national imagination as well.

The party originally emerged from a movement in Mumbai demanding preferential treatment for Maharashtrians over migrants to the city. But soon the party became reflective of a Hindu revivalist force, extolling unabashedly about its Hindu roots and serving the causing of Hinduism.

However, what now remains of Shiv Sena is nothing but an organisation characterised by tempestuous leaders, for whom eccentricity has arguably become the order of the day. The party is not only fighting for custodianship of Hinduism with the BJP and RSS, but it is also struggling to uphold its founding principles laid down by Balasaheb Thackeray.

It is facing tough headwinds from the BJP in its own backyard Mumbai, where the BJP has rapidly made inroads into what was traditionally Shiv Sena vote bank, compelling them to think beyond their conventional supporters. Part of this can also be attributed to Narendra Modi’s staunch pro-Hindu image and national reach. But Shiv Sena has itself to be blamed since it couldn’t provide its votaries with an intriguing alternative narrative.

The Marathi-centric narrative coupled with Hindu assertion and crude hooliganism towards North-Indians had its shelf life but Shiv Sena failed to realise the need to chisel their narrative as per the changing demands. Their own followers grew weary of their hackneyed discourse and their inability to excite people with a distinct narrative that offered hope, reinvigorated them and stirred their souls into rallying behind the party, the exact thing which Prime Minister Narendra Modi could inspire in millions India became the cause of their decline.

In such a scenario, it is hard to comprehend why Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis is craving to form a coalition government with them. Normally, the weak and the helpless approaches the all-powerful to form an association but this subservient penchant exhibited by most BJP leaders is rather unfathomable. On several occasions now, the BJP had to bear the brunt of the capricious nature of Shiv Sena leaders and endure their slights. Sena has always tried to punch above their weight by displaying a haughty disregard to others and claiming political snobbery.

Earlier this year, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray had announced his party would go it alone in all future elections. Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut snubbed BJP saying their outreach ‘Sampark for Samarthan’ was too little too late hinting towards going alone in the 2019 polls. Shiv Sena was also seen appeasing Muslims a few days back, which is at odds with the BJP’s no appeasement policy. Recently, Shiv Sena mocked its poll partner with a stinging “BJP ke acche din aa gaye” remark on the fuel price hike. Today, Uddhav Thackeray criticised CM Devendra Fadnavis for “delay” in declaring a drought.

Yes, in politics there are no enemies and one has to remain circumspect of the changing dynamics but certainly not at the cost of compromising one’s own principles or dignity. It is one thing to seek support from potential allies but altogether different thing to mollycoddle them and humour their intemperate behaviour.

If any understanding is not developed yet between the two parties, Fadnavis and other BJP leaders would do well to remain mute on the issue of the coalition government formation or at least be cautious in answering the questions related to it, instead of fawning over their potential coalition partner only to be snubbed later. Fadnavis can still remain agnostic about the collation with Sena till elections and then make the overtures depending upon the election result.

In a democracy, allies are very important, for they help you in legitimising your claim to power but one should always keep in mind the wise words of Benjamin Franklin- “Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools, that don’t have brains enough, to be honest.”

It is better to lose on your demerits than to lose on your alliance partner’s shortfalls and vices. When you are in the pole position, it is stupidity to seek additional fair play award points at the cost of your pole position, for everyone is in the race to win the race, not for any consolation.

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