After Amit Shah's Solo Fight Advice To BJP Workers, Sena Stings Again

After Amit Shah's Solo Fight Advice To BJP Workers, Sena Stings Again

MUMBAI: Hours after BJP president Amit Shah told his party workers in Maharashtra to prep for a solo fight in the 2019 general election, ally Shiv Sena has struck another combative note. "I'm fighting for the common man's dream, not for (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi's dream," Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray says in an interview published in the party's mouthpiece Saamana on Monday.

"We don't have only one friend. We are friends of the public," Mr Thackeray says in the interview, adding, "I will hunt but don't need to shoot from anyone else's shoulder. Nor will I need a gun for the hunt."

The BJP's acrimony with the Shiv Sena has peaked after its oldest ally stayed away from a no-confidence debate in parliament on Friday and refused to vote in its support.

A day before the no-trust motion, Amit Shah had dialled Uddhav Thackeray, after which the BJP had claimed that the Sena was completely on board and would support the government. The Sena reportedly even put out a whip ordering all party MPs to be present in parliament for the debate and vote.

But the next morning, just before the no-confidence motion was taken up, the Sena declared that its chief Uddhav Thackeray had decided that the party would stay away. What seemed to be an overnight change of heart deeply embarrassed the BJP, which seized the no-trust vote as an opportunity to show off the numbers on its side - not just allies but also other parties. The Sena's decision coincided with a Saamana editorial that said: "Those ruling the country are butchers who save animals but kill humans."

The Sena rubbed it in by praising Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who launched a searing attack on PM Modi during the debate and then walked across the house to give him a surprise hug that rattled the BJP.

The BJP is not calling off the alliance yet but Amit Shah's words at a party meeting in Mumbai reflect the party's toughest stand ever. Sources say Amit Shah told party workers that they should prepare to fight next year's national polls alone in Maharashtra, where the two parties have been allies for nearly three decades.

Mr Shah told booth-level BJP workers to prepare for the possibility of a triangular or even four-way contest with the BJP and the Shiv Sena fighting Lok Sabha polls separately, sources said. "You should start preparing now so that in your booths 51 per cent voters vote for BJP," the BJP president said, according to sources.

The two parties contested the 2014 parliamentary elections as allies, scoring big, but in the assembly elections a few months later, they split and fought alone. The BJP emerged as the single-largest party in the state for the first time ever. Even the Congress and its ally, the Sharad Pawar-led NCP, fought separately in the 2014 assembly elections.

The Sena, which had to settle for the role of a junior partner in their post-poll alliance with 63 assembly seats, had announced earlier that it will fight the 2019 elections alone.