- Amit Shah told BJP workers to prepare to fight 2019 polls alone
- Fighting for common man's dream, not for PM Modi's, Uddhav Thackeray said
- Ties between Shiv Sena and BJP have hit new lows in the last few months
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 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 said in an interview published in his party mouthpiece Saamana on Monday.
On Sunday, Amit Shah's reported words at a meeting of BJP workers in Mumbai reflected the party's toughest stand ever on the Sena after its oldest ally stayed away from a no-confidence debate in parliament on Friday and refused to vote in its support.
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.
This morning, top BJP sources indicated that the party was not ready to give up on the alliance just yet, considering the partnership its best bet to consolidate pro-Hindu votes in next year's elections.
The Sena has announced, more than once, that it will go it alone in 2019. It has also kept up relentless attacks and criticism of its ally.
"We don't have only one friend. We are friends of the public," Mr Thackeray said in the interview today, adding, "I will hunt but don't need to shoot over anyone else's shoulder. Nor will I need a gun for the hunt."
Amit Shah had dialed Uddhav Thackeray a day before the no-trust vote and the BJP had claimed later 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 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 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.
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