The battle between Shiv Sena and BJP for the number of seats each would contest in the assembly elections intensified on Sunday, with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray choosing to delve into the past and give its alliance partner some history lessons.
Bal Thackeray with Narendra Modi at Matoshree in 2003, a year after the Godhra riots. File pic
Speaking to his party workers in Bandra, Thackeray sought to remind the BJP that the Sena had supported the party during its time of need and that it should ‘understand the situation now’, referring to the BJP’s rumoured desire to break up the alliance.
Speaking to his party workers at Rangsharda, Bandra, a normally reticent Thackeray talked openly about the ongoing feud. Dipping into the past, Thackeray invoked the Godhra riots, largely regarded as a blot on PM Narendra Modi’s political career, and said the Sena had backed him even when no one else was ready to do so.
Narendra Modi and Uddhav Thackeray
“Balasaheb (Bal Thackeray) was the one who had told Advani that if Modi goes, then Gujarat goes as well. He didn’t let the BJP remove Modi from the post of Gujarat chief minister,” he said. Thackeray also underscored the Hindutva ideology based on which the two parties have been in alliance, particularly referring to the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.
In his speech to party workers, Uddhav Thackeray sought to remind the BJP that Bal Thackeray and the Sena had supported PM Modi when he been under fire during the 2002 Gujarat riots. File pics
“After the Babri demolition, when everyone was shirking the responsibility, Balasaheb had taken it up and said: ‘If the mosque was demolished by Shiv Sainiks, then I am proud of them,’” Thackeray added.
Thackeray also claimed that former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had called then Sena chief Bal Thackeray, asking him how many seats he wanted in the ministry when he became PM, to which the Sena founder said, “First you (Vajpayee) sit on the Prime Minister’s chair and distribute the ministries. If any seats are left, give it to the Shiv Sena.”
Like a marriage gone sour, the two parties have been bickering over the seat-sharing formula for the assembly polls for quite some time. While the BJP has demanded an equal share of the pie (135:135), Thackeray has offered them 119 seats, keeping 151 for the Sena and 18 for other alliance partners in the Mahayuti alliance.
Each has been hurling accusations at the other, with nobody willing to take a step back. Hinting that the BJP should arrive at a compromise in the standoff soon, Thackeray added, “A few days ago, senior BJP leaders had come to meet me and proposed 135-135 (seats) to each.
I said it was not possible. They then asked me to keep 145 and I told them, “Aap lene waale ho dene wale nahin,” (You are the one who will take the seats, not give them).” Thackeray further warned, “If the BJP doesn’t agree to the new proposal, the Sena will be forced to take a decision. I want the alliance to remain; I know the BJP has grown, but so has the Shiv Sena.
Others should understand this.” The leader, under the garb of speaking to his party, chose to speak to the BJP and wanted it to take a cue from his speech, said a party leader. “The cue is if the BJP doesn’t understand now and doesn’t adhere to what the Shiv Sena is saying, it will suffer badly in the elections,” said the leader.
The BJP also had a bone to pick with the Sena, over the latter voting in Congress candidates Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee as residents of India. BJP had been unhappy over the Sena’s refusal to vote for NDA’s candidate, former Lok Sabha speaker P A Sangma.
“We are still proud of voting for Patil, as we wanted to elect the first woman President of India. We voted for Pranab because he was a better candidate,” Thackeray stated. As per a senior Sena leader, Thackeray, before coming to Rangsharda on Sunday morning, spoke to BJP chief Amit Shah over the phone, and informed him of his party’s decision and got his affirmation on the same.
“The list of (my) candidates is ready; I can release it now, but will wait for some time for the alliance to take a final call on it. Earlier, when (Pramod) Mahajan and (Gopinath) Munde were alive, I would be present in discussions and they knew to what point the issue should be stretched,” Thackeray said, suggesting that the current lot of state BJP leaders didn’t know where to draw the line.
While the BJP chose to remain tight-lipped, a senior state leader confirmed to this reporter that they had received a directive from party boss Amit Shah, asking them to stick to the alliance.