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After Bihar betrayal, Shiv Sena wants to harm BJP nationally

Aditya Menon | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:47 IST

The betrayal

  • It caused the defeat of BJP candidates like RSS favourite Rajendra Singh

The plan

  • Having tasted blood, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray wants to contest in more states
  • He says his aim is to "fill the Hindutva vacuum"

More in the story

  • Why does Uddhav want to harm the BJP?
  • How badly did the Sena damage the BJP in Bihar?
  • What is Uddhav\'s plan?

True to their devotion to Chhatrapati Shivaji, the Shiv Sena seems to be engaging in guerrilla warfare. And their adversary is Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

On one hand the party has joined hands with the BJP to take control of a number of municipal corporations in Maharashtra. On the other hand, Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray has announced that he plans to expand his party across the country, something that would put it in direct competition with the BJP.

Also read - Shiv Sena was wrong. But does Sudheendra Kulkarni remember his past?

The Sena was one vote katwa or spoiler in the Bihar elections which received absolutely no attention whatsoever. The party contested around 70 seats and secured over 2 lakh votes across the state. More significantly, the party damaged the prospects of the BJP and its allies in a number of seats, even causing the defeat of a chief ministerial probable of the BJP.

Emboldened by the performance, Uddhav has announced that his party may contest Assembly elections in other states as well. It's aim, in Uddhav's words, is to "fill the vacuum of Hindutva thought across the country". Is the Sena trying to be a nationwide spoiler for the BJP?

How Sena harmed BJP in Bihar

The Sena's Marathi chauvinism doesn't seem to have prevented it from making its presence felt in Bihar. The party secured 2.11 lakh votes across the state, more than other small parties like the Nationalist Congress Party and Asaduddin Owaisi's All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen.

More than the votes it secured, the Sena's impact was felt in the damage it caused the National Democratic Alliance, which it is part of at the Centre.

A case in point is the Dinara seat in Rohtas district. This Upper Caste dominated seat was supposed to be a safe one for the BJP. The party fielded Rajendra Singh, whom the RSS is said to have been backing as a possible chief minister. But the Shiv Sena put paid to the hopes of the BJP and the RSS. Singh lost to the Janata Dal (United) candidate Jai Kumar Singh by a slender margin of 2,691 votes. The Sena's candidate Binod Kumar Choubey polled 4,265 votes, most of which would have otherwise gone to Singh.

Interestingly, the Sena seems to have done better in seats where BJP's allies were contesting. In Bochaha (SC), the Shiv Sena's Paswan candidate secured 11,877 votes, much more than Ram Vilas Paswan's son-in-law, who was the official NDA candidate from the seat.

The party did well in Jamalpur and Manihari as well, contributing to the defeat of Lok Janshakti Party candidates in both the seats. If Uddhav's aim is to contest seats to "fill the Hindutva vacuum" in elections, it would directly harm the BJP's "secular" allies like the LJP. Given a choice between a party like the LJP and the Sena, some pro-Hindutva voters may end up backing the letter.

Sena ate into BJP votes in Bihar and caused the defeat of candidates like RSS-nominee Rajendra Singh

But the Sena harmed the BJP as well. It ate into the BJP's votes in 3 seats which witnessed tight contests between the BJP and the Mahagathbandhan - Bettiah, Kasba and Nalanda.

In many of the seats, the Sena fielded Upper Caste candidates, nibbling into the BJP's votebank. For instance in Morwa, the Sena's Upper Caste candidate Anil Kumar Sharma got 9,380 votes, facilitating the defeat of the BJP's Upper Caste candidate at the hands of an EBC nominee of the JD(U).

The Sena didn't even spare the outgoing leader of the Opposition Nand Kishore Yadav. The party gave the BJP veteran a scare by securing 2,694 votes in his seat Patna Sahib. Yadav managed to scrape through in the end with a thin margin of a little over 2,800 votes.

What is the Sena's motive?

Having tasted blood in Bihar, the Sena now wants to contest elections across the country. Clearly, the party is not in a mood to patch up with the BJP and run a smooth coalition in Maharashtra.

The party feels that the BJP has eaten into its political space in Maharashtra. The Sena wants to tell the BJP that it has the potential to cause it harm at the national level, something that it partially showed during the Bihar elections.

The Sena has units in almost every state in the country.

The Sena leadership is deeply resentful of the present dispensation in the BJP. One must understand that the Sena has a extremely grandiose image of itself - as a the main custodian of Marathi pride. The larger-than-life persona of Bal Thackeray exemplified this grandiosity.

While he was alive, the BJP always remained deferential to the Sena as the senior partner in Maharashtra. Even Narendra Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, was forced to acknowledge that Maharashtrians are the "elder brothers" of Gujaratis, after being snubbed by Balasaheb.

Uddhav wants the Sena to contest Assembly elections in other states to 'fill the Hindutva vacuum'

Given this background and the rivalry between Maharashtrians and Gujaratis, one can understand why the Sena finds it difficult to play a subordinate role to Modi.

It also finds it difficult to play second fiddle to a Brahmin from Nagpur like Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. The politics of Maharashtra has been dominated by non-Brahmins and the Western Maharashtra and Konkan regions. Fadnavis is an outsider on both counts.

This explains why the Sena took on the BJP on the meat ban issue, which it saw as a Brahmin and Gujarati conspiracy.

Competitive communalism

Subramanian Swamy had said last year that the ideal polity would be one in which a soft Hindutva party and a hardline Hindutva party compete with each other.

The Sena's attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni last month was it's attempt to get one-up on the BJP in the Hindutva sphere. It can only be expected that if and when Modi makes a peace overture towards Pakistan, the Sena will do something or the other to embarrass him.

This competitive communalism between the BJP, Shiv Sena and other outfits like the Sanatan Sanstha and the Hindu Mahasabha works well for the RSS in its expand the influence of Hindutva in the public sphere.

But as far as Uddhav Thackeray is concerned, he may finally have found his Aurangzeb in Narendra Modi.

READ MORE - Humbled by victory? Shiv Sena reaches out to BJP

Adding injury to insult: is the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance headed for a split

First published: 12 November 2015, 8:27 IST
Aditya Menon @AdityaMenon22

An incurable addiction to politics made Aditya try his luck as a political researcher as well as wannabe neta. Having failed at both, he settled for the only realistic option left: journalism. Before joining Catch as associate editor, he wrote and reported on politics and policy for the India Today group for five years. He can travel great distances for a good meal or a good chat, preferably both.