The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is bit modified and extended.
First the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, then the 2014 Maharashtra assembly polls and now the Maharashtra civic polls, they are point to this – that the ‘who is the big brother in Shiv Sena-BJP alliance in Maharastra’ story that began with the Maharashtra assembly polls in October 2014, has seen its climax in place now and we can say the BJP is going to be the ultimate big brother in a BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in Maharashtra, if indeed the alliance continues.
The Shiv Sena-BJP alliance has ruled India’s richest civic body Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for the last 20 years but both parties were contesting these Maharashtra civic polls separately. Their electoral rivalry saw both parties placing bitter allegations and using choices of words to paint each other in a negative light.
But in the end, the BJP has emerged as the clear winner, not only in the BMC where it is neck to neck with Shiv Sena in the final tally but in the overall tally of the Maharashtra civic polls. The BJP has won 471 seats in all 10 municipal corporations where polls were held, gaining majority in 8 out of 10. It is over two fold jump from BJP’s tally of 205 in 2012 Maharashtra civic polls.
And it is stellar in the BMC, from 31 in 2012 to 82 in 2017.
As per the information available so far as the counting is still on in some places, while Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) are the biggest losers, crashing down from 529 seats in 2012 from 207 seats in 2012, Shiv Sena, too, has been given a rough treatment by the voters. The party had got 227 seats in the 2012 Maharashtra civic polls which stands at 215 now. And though it has claimed that the BJP has not gone up in the BMC at Shiv Sena’s expense, its marginal rise, from 75 seats in 2012 to 84 in 2017, is certainly not a consolation when seen in the context of the huge gains made by the BJP. Now, if the Shiv Sena has to continue with its run in the BMC, it will have to go with the BJP, who claims support of four independents, to cross the majority mark of 114 in 227 members strong BMC. And it will certainly be on BJP’s terms now.
But the Shiv Sena setback story had begun much before.
THE 2014 SCRIPT REPEATED
The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance for the Maharashtra civic polls got the same fate, in the same manner, as it had happened before the 2014 assembly polls. Based on its performance in the Lok Sabha and assembly polls in Maharashtra, the BJP was demanding 114 seats to contest out of BMC’s 227 seats and was not ready to go down below 105 seats. The Shiv Sena, citing 2012 BMC results, when the Shiv Sena had won 75 seats, contesting on 135 seats, more than double of the BJP’s score of 31 wins, refused to compromise. The BJP then had contested on 63 seats. The Shiv Sena didn’t accept the BJP’s demand and instead chose to split the alliance that was in place since 1997.
THE 2014 FIASCO
2014 saw the Shiv Sena splitting its decades old alliance with the BJP to save its ‘big brother’ status and then rejoining the BJP in a humiliating setback. Out of NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena, the biggest setback went to Shiv Sena. It was the biggest loser in spite of registering growth, in seats and in vote share.
For just 5 seats, the Shiv Sena lost the ‘big brother’ or senior ally tag in Maharashtra, and that too, by a huge margin. Though it was the second largest party in Maharashtra assembly, their 63 seats were nowhere near to the BJP’s 122 seats, given the fact that the BJP had been the junior partner of the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and was ready to compromise even during the last assembly polls in October 2014, agreeing to contest on lesser number of seats than the Shiv Sena in the failed seat-sharing talks. The BJP, with 15 assembly constituencies, had won more seats even in Mumbai than the Shiv Sena’s 14 seats.
The BJP had performed exceedingly well in the Lok Sabha elections cornering maximum number of Lok Sabha seats from Maharashtra that sends 48 members to the parliament and therefore its demand didn’t seem misplaced. In 2014 the LS polls, the BJP had won 23 seats with 27% vote share while the Shiv Sena had 18 seats with 21% vote share. It was a considerable improvement for both. The BJP had taken up its tally from 9 LS seats and 19% vote share in 2009 to 23 seats in 2014. The Shiv Sena also did very well taking up its tally from 10 seats to 18 seats with 17% vote share in 2009.
But the Shiv Sena’s performance was not at par with its junior ally of the past, when seen in comparison with the BJP’s rising graph in the state. Even in the perceived citadel of the Shiv Sena, in Mumbai, the BJP, with 15 assembly constituencies, won more seats that the Shiv Sena’s 14 in the 2014 assembly polls. In 2009 assembly polls, the junior partner of the alliance had won two seats more (46) than the Shiv Sena’s 44 seats. And when it simply outperformed everyone in the Lok Sabha polls registering 8% increase in vote share and over 150% increase in seats, it was right to expect for more.
The BJP had a symbolic edge over the Shiv Sena with 2009 assembly election results but the 2014 LS polls outcome placed it much ahead of all others, including the Shiv Sena. The Shiv Sena had to realize it and should have appreciated when the BJP didn’t ask for sky-high price for its electoral edge. But alleging the BJP of the ‘big brother’ attitude, the Shiv Sena refused to budge and the seat-sharing talks and thus the alliance collapsed.
THE HUMILIATING RETURN
The BJP went on to form the government in Maharashtra in 2014, even if it was 23 seats short of the majority mark in the 288-member strong Maharashtra assembly. The NCP offer of unconditional outside support had taken whatever sheen the Shiv Sena was left with in a post-election scenario of the hung assembly.
In the 2014 assembly polls, the BJP won more than what the Shiv Sena was offering, 119 seats. Had it been in the alliance, even if with 5 more seats, BJP would not have been able to win so many seats. What BJP was demanding was modest. What Shiv Sena’s refusal gave it was grand. And what Shiv Sena lost was grander, costing it the ‘senior alliance partner’ position, and the leverage in the national politics.
So much so, that in order to remain relevant in Maharashtra politics, the Shiv Sena had to compromise and join the Devendra Fadnavis government in December 2014. But the political flow since then shows their hearts could never meet. Even if it rejoined the alliance, the Shiv Sena always acted like a squabbling partner, always sparring in public with its pet line that ‘the BJP should not take the Shiv Sena’s support for granted’ and its ministers in the alliance government were always ready to submit their resignations. It shows the Shiv Sena could never make itself comfortable with the fact that it is now the BJP that will dictate the terms. Even today, a day that proved the meteoric rise of the BJP in Maharashtra politics, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray went on to claim that not just the next Mumbai mayor but even the next Maharashtra chief minister will be from the Shiv Sena.