Shiv Sena, the oldest ally of the ruling BJP, has decided to go it alone in the 2019 elections. Sanjay Raut says his party is ready to face the fall-out.
“If you try to create trouble for the Sena by misusing power, then such attempts will boomerang… By misusing government agencies, the most you can do is to send us to jail or shoot us. We are ready for it”, an angry Shiv Sena, the oldest ideological ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Maharashtra and the second largest constituent in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in the Centre, declared recently. In fact, the party passed a resolution to announce that it would go solo in next year’s Lok Sabha and assembly polls in Maharashtra.
Sanjay Raut, 56, who is Sena’s leader in the Rajya Sabha and executive editor of party mouthpiece, Saamana, was the one proposed the resolution in the party’s national executive last month. In an interview with The Wire, Raut says that the BJP under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah is different from the one during the days of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who he says practiced the “politics of communication.”
What prompted the drastic decision of the Sena to part ways with the BJP?
We are being accused of being the first to break the alliance. But the fact is that the alliance was first broken by the BJP in the 2014 assembly polls in Maharashtra… It is wrong to assume that only we will be hit by the decision to part ways with the BJP.
Earlier, on several occasions, the BJP had talked about its aim of “Shat Pratishat Bhajapa” (100% BJP). They did so by breaking the 25-year-old alliance in the 2014 assembly elections. Then why should not we strive for ‘Shat Pratishat Sena’ (100% Sena)? What we are saying is that we have the right to go solo in 2019.
You must understand that the BJP was the one which had broken the alliance and not the Sena. And, the BJP did it because the victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls went to its head. If the BJP had secured a lower number of seats, it would not have dared to do any such thing. Besides, there was never any attempt from their side to make amends. Is it only our responsibility to abide by the alliance dharma? Efforts should be made from both sides to keep it going.
If the BJP feels that they can secure 500 seats in the Lok Sabha out of a total of 543, and 200 seats in Maharashtra in the 288-member House, they have our best wishes.
How do you look at the scenario in 2019 when the Lok Sabha polls and later the assembly elections in Maharashtra are scheduled?
The picture in Maharashtra is still unstable. The BJP has secured power but people are disillusioned with their rule.
Besides, the good results achieved by the BJP in the assembly polls should not be seen as the victory of its ideology or as a great success of their thought. What the BJP did was that it brought together notorious people from other parties to its fold with the sole aim of winning the elections. They secured 50 seats by taking people from the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). The BJP wanted to win any which way. They can adopt such tactics in future elections too. In fact, these people were also ready to cross over to the Sena, but our party (was not interested), as it was firm on its plank of pure Hindutva and its commitment to work for the ‘Marathi manoos’ (people from Maharashtra). Our work for the cause continues.
The BJP followed a similar pattern in Uttar Pradesh. But the party failed to get success in Bihar earlier, as also in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Odisha and, I would say, even in Maharashtra.
The other problem faced by the Sena that time (October 2014 assembly polls) was that it was not ready, as the BJP broke the alliance at the 11th hour. We could not get proper candidates at the last minute, as for the past 25 years we had been leaving some 125 seats for the BJP and did not contest those seats.
Now, the situation has changed. It is our right to strengthen our party. Founded by Bal Thackeray and headed by Uddhav Thackeray, the Sena is an organisation of independent thought and is not a satellite of any party, not subservient to anyone.
If the BJP is so concerned about the Sena’s decision now, why did it break the alliance in 2014 and what efforts did it make to retain the tie-up. Why was the BJP eager to form a government along with the NCP after the 2014 elections?
But don’t you think that Sena’s decision would divide the Hindutva vote bank as the next polls would witness a triangular or four-cornered contest in Maharashtra?
I do not think that the BJP has any longer remained an organisation propagating Hindutva. This is because they have not gone a step forward on our agenda of Hindutva since assuming office. You take the issue of the Common Civil Code or abolition of Article 370 from Kashmir. Or on Ram Mandir or on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir? What have we done on that?
We are throwing all the issues in the court of the courts. If we are throwing the mandir issue in the court of courts, then why did we raise such a huge movement which saw the Saryu river turning red in Ayodhya with the blood of hundreds of karsevaks?
As staunch proponents of Hindutva, we have several such questions in mind. Why has the situation in Kashmir Valley today gone out of hand? Why has Article 370 not been abolished? Forming a government in J&K along with Mehbooba Mufti fits in with which definition of nationalism? There are no answers to these questions from the rulers who claim to be the champions of Hindutva.
(And the tragedy is that) when we raise such questions, we are looked upon as if we are traitors.
But the question remains that the Hindutva vote bank created in 1989 stands divided?
The Sena was the first to create the Hindutva vote. The BJP aligned with us when they saw we have created the Hindutva vote bank. It has never been our desire, not even today, that the Hindutva vote bank should get divided and the Congress benefits from it.
But those practicing selfish politics, egoist politics should think of this. They are practicing the politics of marginalising and finishing their own allies. This is not a charge by only the Shiv Sena, Chandrababu (Telugu Desam Party supremo and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu), too, is saying so. The only difference is that we speak of our own aggressive style and he is saying it a bit mildly.
What has the BJP done to retain allies? What efforts has it taken to keep the allies with it?
How was the NDA during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s time and now?
During Atalji’s time, the NDA was really vibrant. Luckily, today the BJP has secured a majority on its own with more than 280 seats and so they do not need the help and cooperation of allies. But there is no guarantee that 2019 would be the same as 2014. Whatever politics we can understand, the BJP in 2019 would be down by a minimum 100 from the 280 in 2014. At that time, how are you going to rule? NDA would also be hit in that proportion.
So, Atalji practiced the politics of compromise and accommodation?
Atalji practiced politics of communication. His emphasis was on dialogue.
Now, the emphasis is on non-communication. Atalji’s strength was communication. Now the strength is non-communication…..not maintaining any dialogue. To become deaf and dumb, neither listening to anyone nor talking to anyone. If the allies air grievances, the attitude is of simply not listening to them (ignoring them).
Chandrababu’s charge is that the BJP is attempting to forge an alliance with YSR Congress’s Jaganmohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh. They (the BJP) need a stepney everywhere.
We value loyalty. That is our strength.
Do you feel that the BJP is practicing the politics of “use and throw” with its allies?
In modern times, projects are implemented on ‘build, operate and transfer ‘(BOT) basis. What is being practiced (by BJP), unfortunately, is ‘use, operate and throw’ technique.
Fortunately, they could not throw out the Sena. Our foundations are strong and contesting elections is not our sole purpose. In elections, there are bound to be ups and downs. Balasaheb Thackeray has taught us that we should not become arrogant in victory and get demoralised by defeat.
So what is the option before the Shiv Sena after announcing parting of ways with the BJP in future polls? What is your advice/suggestion to the BJP top brass?
We do not do politics by keeping an option in mind. Forming a government on our own is the option. To have the next chief minister of the Sena is the option. But if you try to create trouble for the Sena by misusing power, then such attempts would boomerang. You can send us to jail. We are ready. By misusing government agencies, the utmost what you can do is to send us to jail or shoot us. We are ready.
We do not consider anyone as our political enemy. Our fight is ideological. Everyone has the right to strengthen his party in a democracy. But (one should remember) that if anyone attempts to marginalise the Sena by misusing power, it will not work. Such attempts made to finish the Sena in the last 50 years have boomeranged.
So Sena and the BJP have reached a point of no return?
We have not done anything from our side. They were the first to break the alliance in 2014. You cannot put us in the dock on the issue. You committed the crime of breaking the alliance in 2014.
Don’t you think that the Congress and NCP will benefit by the Sena and BJP parting ways?
It is for the NCP and the Congress to test their strength. These are independent organisations. But still, we sincerely feel that the Congress should not benefit from all these developments.
Don’t you think that there is a crisis of credibility for the Sena after its announcement of going solo but still remaining part of the BJP-led government at the Centre and in Maharashtra?
I do not think so. You look at Jammu and Kashmir where the BJP has taken a position against the government despite being a part of it. There the BJP should get out of the government, but they are not doing it… The BJP should get out of the Mehbooba government which has taken a stand against the Indian army.
You see what happened in Gujarat (elections). Some are doubting whether (what has been achieved by the BJP) could be called victory. Others have raised some more doubts. The results of the just concluded bypolls in Rajasthan are shocking for us.
So, in such a backdrop, do you have any advice for the BJP leadership, for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and for BJP chief Amit Shah?
Why should we make a fool of ourselves by shouting before those who are acting deaf and dumb? We have made our concerns known several times earlier. We do not think it is proper to involve the prime minister, who is leading the nation, to drag into this politics.
But (unfortunately) those who are charged with the responsibility of running the party and win the next elections have always maintained non-communication and have not had any dialogue. It is not that each ally becomes a slave and a satellite of the ruling party. Not becoming subservient to anyone is in the DNA of the Sena.
Sunil Gatade is a senior journalist.