In what may widen the fissures between the Shiv Sena and the BJP, the Sena has decided to contest the Lok Sabha polls in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where its ally has a lot at stake. However, after purportedly announcing that the party would field candidates in Varanasi and Lucknow where the BJP's PM nominee Narendra Modi and the party's national president Rajnath Singh will contest from respectively, the Sena beat a hasty retreat.
The BJP is banking on a rich haul of seats from the 80 seats in the Lok Sabha from Uttar Pradesh and another 40 from Bihar to fulfill its ambitions of coming to power in New Delhi. "We will fight the Lok Sabha elections outside Maharashtra.
Why shouldnt we contest?... the Shiv Sena is a big party," said Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP and spokesperson Sanjay Raut, who also edits the Sena mouthpiece Saamna, while denying a purported statement by him that the party would contest against Modi and Rajath. "Contrary to media twisted quotes, obv Shiv Sena isn't putting up candidates against Our PM candidate @narendramodi ji n @BJPRajnathSingh ji," tweeted Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray, who is Sena president Uddhav Thackeray's elder son, adding that:
"Those who even believe such funny rumours, well, I feel sorry for them." Raut said the Sena would fight 20 seats in Uttar Pradesh, five in Bihar and also from states like Delhi and Kerala. Sena sources said the party, which is based on a strong sons of soil and anti-outsider sentiment, had lost out on the attraction that it once commanded among the Hindutva faithful in the Hindi heartland during the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. They added that the move could be a symbolic one meant to pile up tactical pressure on the BJP, which has been flirting with the rival Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) led by Uddhav's estranged cousin Raj Thackeray.
Raut pointed out that regional parties like the Trinamool Congress, DMK and AIADMK wanted to contest from Maharashtra and questioned why the Sena should not fight from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. He however added that the Sena was open to an alliance with the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. "How will the party grow if we do not contest the polls? The activists work for five years, they face lathis, bullets and go to jail... and when the polls come (shall we) tell them not to contest?" questioned Raut, adding that this would impact the morale of Sena workers.