‘The old NDA formed by Vajpayee and Advani was different, alliance partners were allowed to grow’

It’s just over a month since Shiv Sena broke away from BJP, ending an alliance of 34 years. Sanjay Raut, Rajya Sabha member of Shiv Sena and editor of the party mouthpiece Saamana, talks to Mohua Chatterjee about it:

It was such a long relationship. Why did Shiv Sena break ties with BJP?

Shiv Sena did not break away. BJP did. It is strange that today everybody is asking us this, but no one has put the question to BJP – why their leadership broke up the alliance, not now, in 2014. Even after they broke the ties we continued to support them, we helped BJP run the government for five years. In those five years, we were insulted, not given any important portfolio, not listened to. Since 2014, they have only tried to finish us off. But, we are a grassroots party, so their games did not succeed. We survived, we grew.

Uddhav Thackeray wanted to contest all 48 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. But Amit Shah came to Matoshree [Thackeray home] and met him, and said BJP wanted an alliance with the Sena. Both sides agreed on the alliance. Both said on camera that they had agreed on a 50:50 seat sharing and a 50:50 power sharing pact. But after the polls BJP started going back to their old tricks, saying they never said anything on power-sharing. Even then we went ahead with the alliance. After the results were out talks could not move forward between the two sides. BJP kept denying that they had agreed to power sharing. After that the three parties – Sena, NCP and Congress – came together, formed a common minimum programme and went on to form government.

Many feel it is an unnatural alliance and the government in Mumbai may not last its full term just as it happened in Karnataka, where BJP gained in the long run.

They can all dream about it. There is no GST on dreaming yet. I can understand the pain that BJP is feeling, for their own faults. But in Maharashtra it won’t happen. We will run the government for five years.

Why did you vote abstain the vote on CAB in Rajya Sabha after supporting it in Lok Sabha? In fact you have always supported the Citizenship Bill.

No, there is no opposition to the bill. We have always felt that Hindus who have come from Pakistan or Bangladesh, we should help them. But, alongside we also asked, since Amit Shah mentioned that ‘lakhs and crores’ are seeking citizenship, where will you keep them? You provide them with all the amenities but please do not give them voting rights now otherwise there is every possibility of vote bank politics being played out.

Look at Assam. Look at what has happened there. It is because you are not able to communicate with them. One knew that they were against the CAB. Also, tell me, till date you have not been able to get Kashmiri Hindus to return to their homes. What about that, I asked but there is no answer to it.

What is the message that goes out from the Maharashtra episode? 

A new hope in the politics of this country has been generated. It is about the confidence that something new could happen. The scare factor is gone. The fear that agencies will be sent to you and some things can be done is no longer true. Dar dikha ke kuchh ho sakega … ab woh nahin hoga (Get something done by scaring … that will not happen now).

What has changed in BJP that has made you take this stand?

The old NDA (National Democratic Alliance) formed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani was different. The atmosphere was always about mutual respect, there was good communication, BJP as the big party paid attention to what allies were saying and issues were discussed. Most important, alliance partners from states were allowed to grow. And, with them BJP also grew.

Will Sena activities increase in states other than Maharashtra?

In Goa we have some strength; we also have a little presence in Uttar Pradesh. But outside of Maharashtra we do not have any tie-up with BJP. People are keen that we go and work there, but at present our focus is on Maharashtra.

BJP is a strong opposition in the Maharashtra assembly. How will you cope with that?

When opposition is strong and in this case we have a strong opposition in the assembly, the expectation is that it will play the role of keeping checks and balances on the government. We are aware of BJP’s strength and that should help us function better.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

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