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From Ram to Sholay, Sena stings BJP

This (50:50 formula) is not our demand. This is the agreement they reached with us: Sena MP Sanjay Raut

J.P. Yadav New Delhi Published 28.10.19, 11:21 PM
Shiv Sena leader Aditya Thackeray with his father Uddhav Thackery after winning the assembly elections at Sena Bhavan in Mumbai on Thursday, October 24, 2019.

Shiv Sena leader Aditya Thackeray with his father Uddhav Thackery after winning the assembly elections at Sena Bhavan in Mumbai on Thursday, October 24, 2019. (PTI)

The Shiv Sena on Monday invoked Ram, saying the name meant “satya”, and urged the BJP to speak the truth about a 50:50 agreement the allies had reached on sharing the chief minister’s post as it continued to torment the bigger partner over forming the government in Maharashtra.

“This (50:50 formula) is not our demand. This is the agreement they reached with us,” Sena MP Sanjay Raut told The Telegraph over the phone. “They gave their word at a joint press conference ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. They can’t delete that record.”


Asked what the Sena planned to do if the BJP didn’t respect the agreement, Raut invoked Ram. “They keep on saying ‘Ram, Ram’…. ‘Ram’ means ‘satya’ (truth). They should speak the truth.”

Raut’s comments came after the two sides had met governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari separately on Monday. Although both claimed the visits were courtesy calls to convey Diwali greetings, they highlighted the strain in the relationship between the allies.

“Met hon’ble governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari this morning at Raj Bhavan and wished him on the occasion of Diwali. Also apprised him about the current situation,” chief minister Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP tweeted in Marathi.

Sena leader Diwakar Raote had earlier led a party delegation to the governor but claimed the visit was purely to exchange Diwali pleasantries.

The Sena-BJP alliance won a clear majority in the just-concluded Assembly elections. The BJP won 105 seats and the Sena 56 in the 288-member House, but the tussle over sharing power has complicated government-formation efforts.

An editorial in Sena mouthpiece Saamana on Monday, titled “Itna sannata kyon hai bhai (Why so much silence)”, appeared to needle the BJP further.

The iconic dialogue from Sholay comes when the visually impaired character of Rahim chacha/ Imam saab (played by A.K. Hangal) questions the silence of villagers when a horse carries in the body of his son, killed by dacoit Gabbar Singh, portrayed by Amjad Khan.

The Sena has borrowed the dialogue to target the BJP-led central government over the economic slowdown, seeking to know why there was so much “silence” in the markets during Diwali and wondering if worse days lay ahead.

The question, the editorial said, is resonating over the future not only of Maharashtra but of the country. “If they (the BJP) have Dushyant (Chautala, the BJP’s new ally in Haryana), we too have options, but we want the alliance dharma to be respected,” Raut said.

Asked how long this tussle would drag on, he retorted: “Ask this question to the BJP. Why are they silent? If what we are saying is wrong, they should say so.”

The BJP, he said, has not yet bothered to talk to the Sena.

Raut said his party wanted the BJP to keep its word, when reminded that the Sena had initially said it would contest the Lok Sabha polls on its own but gone back on the decision and joined hands with the BJP.

“Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, they repeatedly urged us to maintain the alliance and we did. After winning 303 seats their arrogance was back…. We agreed to contest fewer seats in the Assembly only to maintain the alliance but now we want the BJP to keep its word,” Raut said.

The BJP continued to maintain its silence although party leaders in private claimed the matter would be sorted out in a “couple of days” and that the Sena was driving a hard bargain only to secure plum portfolios.

A meeting of the newly elected BJP members is scheduled for Wednesday, where Fadnavis is set to be elected leader of the legislature party. BJP leaders said Fadnavis would then formally stake claim to form the government.

The BJP appeared confident that the governor would invite Fadnavis to form the government as the pre-poll alliance under his leadership had secured a clear majority. “We are confident that by then everything will have been sorted out with the Sena,” a BJP leader said.

Both sides have, however, reached out to Independents and smaller parties to shore up their numbers.

Sources said the Sharad Pawar-led NCP, which has won 54 seats, and the Congress (44) have been sending feelers to the Sena that they are ready to back the party if it snapped ties with the BJP.

The Sena, however, hasn’t yet decided to take the plunge, worried how the move would play out in the long run.

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