Ram Mandir Brings Shiv Sena, BJP Together Again

After having launched continuous unrestrained attacks on the BJP for over three years, Uddhav Thackeray announced that he has made “peace” for the larger “Hindutva agenda”.

Mumbai: The two sparring allies Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena have finally decided to bury the hatchet and retain their tie-up in the upcoming general elections and Maharashtra state elections. The two made a seat- sharing announcement on Monday February 18 in Mumbai.

Shiv Sena will contest 23 seats of the total 48 seats, and BJP the remaining 25 seats in the general elections which are to be held in April. For the state assembly elections, the two parties have decided to go with 50:50 seat sharing. The state is likely to head to the polls in September. 

Larger ‘Hindutva agenda’

After having launched continuous unrestrained attacks on the BJP for over three years, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray today announced that he has made “peace” with its ally for the larger “Hindutva agenda”.

Thackeray said his demand for Ram Mandir to be built on the disputed land in Ayodhya at the earliest is still on BJPs agenda and the two parties have come together to fulfil this larger goal. Both BJP chief Amit Shah and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis agreed with his demand.

“If we are seeking Ram rajya in this country, we need a Ram Mandir to be built in Ayodhya at the earliest,” Thackeray said.

Also read: BJP, Shiv Sena Split Maharashtra’s Seats in Tie-Up For Lok Sabha, Assembly Polls

Addressing a press conference in Mumbai along with Shah and Fadnavis, Thackeray said he has agreed to overlook his differences and focus on the “larger good”. An hour before the press meet, Shah along with Fadnavis and other senior party leaders had visited Thackeray at Matoshree, his residence in suburban Bandra. 

“The two parties had stuck together for over 25 years on its single ideology of nationalism and Hindutva agenda. We have had differences in the past but we are ready to leave them behind and come together to push the Hindutva agenda on a national level,” Thackeray declared at the conference.

Credit: Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

Sena, which has been a bickering ally over the past few years, has on multiple occasions given hints about its intentions of heading to the polls alone, using its mouthpiece Saamna to hit out at the BJP and the prime minister Narendra Modi.

In a scathing editorial piece in December – soon after the BJP lost elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh – Thackeray had taken to his newspaper to “congratulate the voters” for taking a “bold decision” of ousting the BJP from their respective states.

Also read: Shiv Sena Celebrates BJP Collapse in the Hindi Belt

The Sena, in the editorial, had said that both PM Narendra Modi and Shah have been side-lined in the “Hindi belt” of the country and given space to the “meritorious star” Rahul Gandhi. The title of the editorial reads: “Those (BJP) trying to fly high, have collapsed.”

But today at the press conference, the mood was entirely different. Fadnavis claimed that the two parties have managed to “amicably resolve” all its issues and have accepted each other “with open hearts”. “Uddhavji has been raising some pertinent issues in the recent times and we have agreed to take care of them favourably,” Fadnavis said.

He further added that Thackeray has been persistent with few of his demands, particularly about the need to expedite the process of building the temple at Ayodhya.

Reiterating Fadnavis’ claims, Shah added, “Under PM Modi’s guidance, the work has already been initiated.”

He further added that the central government has already sought the surplus 67 acres of land acquired in 1993 to be handed over to its “rightful owners” Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas.

The upper hand

Going by today’s announcement on the seat-sharing, it is evident that the BJP has managed to have an upper hand in the state.  This has remained a root of much of the friction between the two allies. Both party leaders, however, stayed quiet about the probable chief ministerial candidate in the state elections, one of the other most contentious issue between the two parties.

The BJP has also agreed to resolve issue of the Nanar oil refinery project in the coastal region of Maharashtra.

“The Sena has made it clear that it is not opposed to the project per se but to the issue of land acquisition of the farmers in the region. I had already announced in the past that we have stopped our process of acquiring land in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg region. Today, I am announcing that we will soon be starting with the reversal process of handing over the land back to the farmers,” Fadnavis declared.

Also read: Why BJP Will Continue to Give in to Shiv Sena’s Demands

Talking of the woes of farmers in the state, Fadnavis said over 50 lakh farmers have benefitted from the loan waiver scheme in the state.

“But we will ensure all those who have been left behind because of the technical issues at the local village level. Uddhav ji wanted me to give this assurance and BJP promises to take this up seriously,” he added. 

Expressing confidence over winning the polls, Shah said, “I am confident that in the Lok Sabha elections, BJP and Shiv Sena will together win 45 out of total 48 seats in Maharashtra.” Shah had made similar claim at his recent visit to Pune.

“Our hearts have always been together. We are making a fresh start today and I believe all Hindu voters will rejoice today. The two parties will now move forward together with a clean heart,” Thackeray said.