Shiv Sena dumps BJP for 2019 polls, but silent on quitting BJP-led govts; Aaditya Thackeray elevated

The Shiv Sena on Tuesday announced that it would contest the 2019 Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly elections on its own, and elevated Uddhav Thackeray’s son Aaditya, 27, in its hierarchy to make him a part of the core team.

Senior Sena leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut made the announcement.

The Shiv Sena national executive, which met at the NSCI in Worli on the birth anniversary of their late founder Bal Thackeray, passed the resolution on contesting solo in the 2019 polls.

The decision comes amid increasingly strained relations with its ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). For a while now, the Sena chief has been taking on the BJP and even Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis — with whom he is said to share a good personal rapport — on several issues.

The resolution to end the alliance was moved by Raut, who said that the party had “compromised for upholding the alliance” with the BJP. Raut termed the last three years of alliance with the BJP as “demoralising”.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the other important action taken was the elevation of Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray to a Shiv Sena ‘neta’. The party hierarchy has Uddhav Thackeray at the top, followed by ‘netas’ (leaders), then ‘upnetas’ (deputy leaders). This means that Aaditya will now be a part of the Sena’s core leadership team, working along with veterans such as former chief minister Manohar Joshi and industries minister Subhash Desai.

Thackeray said that going forward the Sena would contest elections in all states, and it would fight on the Hindutva agenda. “We will fight elections in every state for the cause of Hindutva, I vow today,” said Thackeray, who was re-elected party chief.

The resolution said the Sena would win at least 25 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra and win a majority in the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly on its merit.

However, the Sena is not pulling out of the BJP-led governments at the Centre and in Maharashtra yet. If it pulls out, the BJP-led government in the state would be in a minority. At the same time, the Sena’s rule in the Mumbai civic body will be in jeopardy if it pulls out as it does not have a clear majority and the BJP has extended outside support to the party.

The Sena had threatened to quit the Maharashtra government earlier. Recently, Aaditya had announced that the Sena would quit the BJP-led Maharashtra government in a year’s time.

Later, Thackeray, while addressing the national executive, slammed the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a slew of issues including Hindutva, regionalism and cow vigilantism. Taking on Modi, he criticised him for promoting Gujarat when heads of states or foreign dignitaries visit India. “The PM calls himself ‘Pant Pradhan’, all he does is travel abroad, he took Israeli PM to Ahmedabad, why not to Lal Chowk in Srinagar? Why couldn’t he have done a roadshow in Srinagar? Had he hoisted tricolour in Lal Chowk, we would have felt a sense of pride towards our PM,” Thackeray said.

The Sena chief also slammed Union minister Nitin Gadkari over his remarks on the Navy at an event held in Mumbai last week. “Nitin Gadkari came to Maharashtra and insulted the Navy, which guards our borders here. People in the armed forces are the ones with the real 56-inch chest, how can you insult them,” he asked.

Training his guns at the BJP, Thackeray said the concept of Hindutva it endorsed is different. “If a government only runs advertisement [campaigns] and does not fulfil the promises it made to the people, such a government should be pulled down,” he told his party cadre and asked them to start preparing for the general and state elections as there is speculation that they may be advanced to December 2018.

Meanwhile, Aaditya is expected to play an active role in the party’s decision-making from here on. As Yuva Sena chief, the 27-year-old has initiated several programmes for Mumbai. For instance, the recently opened 11-km cycling track is his brainchild. He also spearheaded the drive to ban plastic in Maharashtra, and has been pushing for the Sena-held state transport department to promote eco-friendly public transport vehicles.