Shiv Sena-BJP tie-up: United at top, divided at grassroots

Simmering bad blood between the party workers may cost them a few seats

Latest News
Uddhav Thackeray and Amit Shah

Though BJP and Shiv Sena have put aside their differences and settled on a seat-sharing arrangement for the Lok Sabha polls, the alliance has failed to gel on the ground level.

The Sena and BJP workers were campaigning for incumbent South Mumbai MP Arvind Sawant in a narrow lane in one of the island city's crowded business districts when a Sena loyalist had a moment of epiphany.

"While the BJP workers are shouting 'Phir ek bar Modi sarkar' with great gusto, Shiv Sainiks are finding it tough to mouth these lines," he observed.

The Shiv Sena and BJP may have made up after almost five years of relentless sniping, but nothing better illustrates the ground reality of the new-found bonhomie between the two. The Shiv Sena, which had earlier announced it would contest all elections sans an alliance with the BJP, made a U-turn later to tie-up for the Lok Sabha polls.

While the alliance is facing its acid test in the Lok Sabha elections, much water has flown under the bridge. An undercurrent of the rivalry between the two parties is contained in Mumbai's linguistic faultlines — that of the Shiv Sena's traditional Maharashtrian support base resenting the growing socio-cultural assertion by non-Maharashtrians, especially those aligned with the BJP.

Shiv Sena and BJP leaders admit that this bad blood may cost them a few seats, including those seen as traditional saffron strongholds.

"Shiv Sainiks need an adversary to be mobilised. For five years, our leaders had typecast the BJP as our rival. We fought the state assembly and BMC elections against them. How can we work shoulder-to-shoulder with them now," questioned a Shiv Sainik from South Central Mumbai.

A BJP functionary admitted their workers were upset at the relentless criticism by the Sena leadership against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders and were not in a hurry to forgive or forget.

"There is a perception that some Sena MPs in Mumbai have reached out only to Marathi-speakers. However, despite the bad blood, some BJP supporters may vote for the Shiv Sena to ensure a mandate for Modi," he explained.

"The basic difference in this and previous elections is the lack of coordination and enthusiasm in the workers of the two parties. There is no sense of ownership in the Sena rank-and-file in constituencies where the BJP is contesting and vice-versa. Though local MLAs are working for these nominees as they are wary of their prospects in the state assembly polls, this seems to be a facade," the BJP leader claimed.

A senior Shiv Sena leader admitted that the change in the city's demographic profile had put the party on a weaker wicket. "In tony areas like Malabar Hill, Colaba and Lokhandwala, high-brow voters will vote for us only if the BJP works on that last-mile. These people are not our natural constituents. Also, we also have to contend with the Raj Thackeray factor," he said.

The MNS chief is campaigning for the Congress- NCP, albeit in a subtle manner. Despite its electoral depletion, the MNS still commands the loyalty of a section of Marathi youth, women and cultural elite.


May 2014

Shiv Sena rides Narendra Modi wave, wins 18 seats in Maharashtra. Saffron alliance wins 42 of 48 seats, including all six in Mumbai

September 2014

BJP snaps alliance with Shiv Sena before assembly polls, wins 122 of 288 seats with Sena at 63. The Shiv Sena sits on the opposition benches before joining the Devendra Fadnavis-led government. This break-up was preceded by relentless criticism of the BJP and its leadership

February 2017

Shiv Sena contests BMC polls sans an alliance with the BJP, wins 84 seats but finds estranged ally snapping at heels with 82

January 2018

Shiv Sena national executive approves resolution to come to power without alliance with BJP. This is followed by vitriolic attacks against the BJP, especially through party organ Saamna

February 2019

Shiv Sena and BJP announce their alliance for the Lok Sabha and state assembly elections after months of back-channel negotiations. Incidentally, while Sena claims it will get the chief minister’s post, this is denied by the BJP

Find your daily dose of news & explainers in your WhatsApp. Stay updated, Stay informed-  Follow DNA on WhatsApp.

Live tv