The Shiv Sena on Tuesday said it will have no truck with ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly and Lok Sabha polls. Top BJP leadership downplayed the threat and exuded confidence that the alliance will remain intact, indicating that the Sena's threat had much to do with ensuring a better deal in sharing of seats.
The Sena was silent on its continuance in the governments at the Centre and in the state, drawing ridicule from the Congress, which dubbed the announcement as "laughable". A top BJP leader, who didn't want to be quoted, also pointed out that the Sena continues to be part of the Narendra Modi cabinet at the Centre, and the coalition government in Maharashtra.
"We have immense reserves of tolerance," the top BJP leader said to the Sena's repeated threats. The leader likened the Sena's anger to a domestic fight in which the wife might walk out in a huff to her parent's home, but a rapproachment is soon reached between the spouses.
"We are the bigger party and will exhibit appropriate large heartedness," the BJP leader said, adding that he was hopeful the BJP and Sena alliance will remain intact for the Lok Sabha and Maharahtra assembly poll. The leader also claimed that the BJP had offered the chief ministerial post to the Sena, despite it winning fewer seats than the BJP in the Maharashtra assembly in 2014, but the Sena had turned the offer down.
The Sena has routinely attacked the BJP in the past few months. It criticised the Centre for demonetisation and goods and services tax (GST), on the plight of farmers and cross-border assaults by Pakistan.
Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray, who was re-elected as party president on Tuesday, said it did not contest elections outside Maharashtra to ensure the Hindu votes do not get divided, but would try its luck in all Assembly polls in future, irrespective of the outcome.
The resolution to part ways with the BJP and go it alone in the elections next year was tabled by Sena MP Sanjay Raut at the party's National Executive meeting.
"I move the resolution for the Shiv Sena to fight the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha polls on its own in 2019," Raut said while tabling the document, which was adopted unanimously.
"The BJP allied with the Sena in the name of Hindutva and the Sena kept its patience for Hindutva. However, the BJP in the last three years has been demoralising the Sena and using power to do so," Raut said.
The opposition Congress and NCP taunted the Sena for the announcement, and asked why it continued to be part of the BJP-led dispensations.
Thackeray, while addressing the party's National Executive, criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi for flying kites with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu instead of focusing on insurgency-hit Jammu and Kashmir.
Thackeray accused the BJP government of spending money only on advertisements and said that such a government should be brought down. "Why did you have to take the Israeli PM to Ahmedabad? What purpose did it serve? The nation would have been proud of you had you taken him (Netanyahu) to Srinagar and hoisted the tricolour there or taken him to Lal Chowk and hoisted the flag there," said Thackeray.
"If killing a cow is a crime and is banned, then speaking lies for power should also be considered a sin and be stopped," Thackeray said.
"Today, we do not know if the country is going forward or backward. The environment in the country is such that Pakistan has become an election issue. The neighbouring country was also brought in for Gujarat elections... there is no co-relation between the two," Thackeray said.
The situation became such that Pakistan had to formally ask India not to drag it in its internal issues, he said.
Thackeray said that despite Modi's promise of 'acche din', soldiers were sacrificing their lives every day and their mutilated bodies were being brought to their native places and consigned to flames.
"However, we just give talks about teaching Pakistan a lesson every time. Once and for all, take concrete action rather than just talk," Thackeray said. He also slammed Union minister Nitin Gadkari for his recent remarks about defence personnel.
The Sena and BJP contested the last Lok Sabha poll together but went their separate ways in the Maharashtra Assembly polls following dispute over seat-sharing. They came together again to form the government, the bitterness endures.
NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik alleged that the fear of defection from its ranks is stopping the Shiv Sena from pulling out of the government.
"The party is unable to come to terms with being the younger brother in the alliance with the BJP," the NCP leader said.