Just before the BMC elections 2017, the Shiv Sena ended its twenty-year-old alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the two former allies are now pitted against each other. The decision was not a surprise amid the constant tussle between the two parties on various issues. But for the opposition, this is just another drama to garner votes and form an alliance after the elections.

The reason

Since 1997, the Shiv Sena and BJP are partners in BMC. While forming a government after the 2014 elections, there was speculation for over a year that the Sena would show its power during the civic elections. Shiv Sena has also played a prominent part in the alliance due to hold over the Marathi votes, an issue over which the BJP struggles even today. Sena, who has the confidence of winning the majority, reportedly had a tiff with BJP which wanted 114 seats for itself in the 227 seat BMC elections. But Sena was only agreeing to give 60 seats. It was after a meeting with the Mumbai wing of the BJP that Sena decided to fight it alone in the BMC elections.

Not a shocker

Mumbaikers who are familiar with Shiv Sena and its politics knew that Sena will eventually break up but most of Mumbaikars who are going to vote in civic election want clarity in the state too. Political observers also have been commenting on a possible fallout in their relationship since 2014 after Shiv Sena’s stand against their partner BJP and especially Chief minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis.

Sena MLAs in the state have often alleged that they are never treated in the same way as their counterparts in the BJP. A complaint about the same had even been voiced in Matoshree, Uddhav Thackeray’s house. But with this fall-out, Mumbaikers are confused as both parties are fighting on a different agenda and almost every day, both BJP and Shiv Sena are throwing jibes at each other over the other’s working style.

Who is stronger in Mumbai?

The Shiv Sena is doing a “Did You Know” campaign where they are flaunting their achievements in BMC for over twenty years. On the other hand, the BJP has come up with “Me Khara Mumbaikers” (I am the real Mumbaikar) using Shiv Sena’s 2002 tagline “Me Mumbaikar”.

Both the BJP and the Shiv Sena are banking on Gujarati votes which are nearly 20 lakh in the entire electorate. Hardik Patel of Patidar agitation had even met Uddhav Thackeray to show his support.

With a sudden change in stance, the voters are not just surprised but are also criticising the Shiv Sena for backing Gujarati and not standing by the Marathi Manoos.

Will this breakup help opposition?

Undoubtedly, the BJP-Sena alliance was stronger in comparison to the Congress-NCP tie up. But despite their fall out, the Congress and the NCP are unlikely to win against the Shiv Sena and BJP candidates who have gained the confidence of voters over the years.

The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen party (AIMIM) may also help BJP defeat Shiv Sena as both parties have candidates in their respected targeted community. Known for its Marathi Manoos stand since its inception, the MNS may stand to gain from the Shiv Sena-BJP break up.

Aftermath of the breakup

In the 20 years that they were together, the BJP never pointed fingers at the Sena over corruption charges but now suddenly after their break up, BJP leaders like Kirit Somaiya and Ashish Shelar have started talking about Shiv Sena openly. If BJP wants to woo voters by projected a clean image, would it not raise more questions of why the party remained silent for all these years?

Keeping aside the agenda of Hindutva, both BJP and Shiv Sena have made development the core issue in the elections.