From donning the 'secular' tag to now Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut inviting Rahul Gandhi to visit Ayodhya, the ideological difference between the contrasting allies in Maharashtra--Shiv Sena and Congress have revived on numerous occasions since the formation of the Uddhav Thackeray-led government. The Shiv Sena from its inception to date has been a strong advocate of Hindutva has often locked horns with the 'secular' Congress on issues like Ayodhya Ram Mandir, Bharat Ratna for Savarkar and Maratha pride, as it takes a diametrically opposite position.
The Congress party has maintained a safe stance on the Ayodhya land dispute case, and always raked up Ram Mandir to accuse the BJP of polarising. Of the few Congress leaders who have spoken about the case, senior leader and lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi had said that the Supreme Court would be the "best" solution. Since the beginning, the BJP and Sena had embraced the Ayodhya issue, while Congress maintained its safe distance.
Since their alliance, Congress-Shiv Sena have locked horns on various issues:
With 'secular' scripted on the first line, the unconventional alliance led by the saffron party, released the Common Minimum Program on November 28. The Common Minimum Program stated that the Sena-Congress-NCP alliance begins with a preamble stating that the coalition is committed to upholding the "secular values" enshrined in the Constitution. Indicating an explicit shift in Shiv Sena's pro-Hindu ideology.
It read, "The alliance partners commit to upholding the secular values enshrined in the Constitution. On the contentious issue of national importance as well as of state importance especially having repercussions on the secular fabric of the nation, the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress will take a joint view after holding consultations and arriving at a consensus."
Reportedly, there was a lot of bickering between the Maharashtra government over the portfolio allocation last month in December. To douse the situation, CM Uddhav Thackeray was forced to give in to the pressure from unsatisfied Congress leaders, reportedly decided to compromise on the allotment to the cabinet members of the Maha Vikas Aghadi.
Shiv Sena, through its mouthpiece Saamna, backed the new Indian Army chief General Manoj Naravane over his remark on waiting for the government's order to reclaim Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Saamna said, "The General said nothing wrong. Most of the terror training camps are running in PoK and these terror camps are run with the support of Pakistani Army and ISI." On the contrary, Congress' Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary took a dig at the Army Chief, advising him to "talk less and work more."
Leaders of Congress and 19 other Opposition parties held a meeting in New Delhi, in order to corner the government over the contentious amended Citizenship Act (CAA) and the proposed NRC on January 13, however, ally Shiv Sena was among the notable absentee from the meeting. The Opposition parties in the meeting expressed concern over the violence in the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Univerity (JNU), wherein 37 students were injured and police action over the anti-CAA protesters.
Savarkar became a crucial point of conflict between the allies in Maharashtra. Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut on January 18 had said that those insulting Savarkar should be sent to jail. Batting yet again for Bharat Ratna for Savarkar, Raut said that those speaking against Savarkar will only acknowledge his role in nation-building only when they are imprisoned in Andaman, where the British had lodged Savarkar.
This comes in direct contradiction to the Congress party who sparked a row with Rahul Gandhi's statement on Savarkar and the booklet distributed by Congress Seva Dal's training camp in Bhopal. Addressing a rally in New Delhi, in December last year, Rahul Gandhi had said that he "will die but never apologise" for speaking the "truth" as he is "a Gandhi and not a Savarkar." After the incident, a booklet distributed by Congress claimed that Savarkar allegedly wanted Hindu men to rape women from the minority community. Moreover, Seva Dal National president Laalji Desai alleged that Savarkar had received pension from the British and had apologised several times. It went on to claim that Savarkar was in a homosexual relationship with Nathuram Godse, the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi.
An evident rift broke out between the Shiv Sena and Congress party last week after Sanjay Raut claimed that former PM Indira Gandhi used to meet with underworld dons in Mumbai. In a blistering response, Congress party's Nitin Raut asserted that the party was not like the BJP and that it would not tolerate the taunts by Shiv Sena leaders. The remark against Gandhi was rigidly denied by the Congress party, despite a photo of underworld don Karim Lala and Indira Gandhi emerged. Moreover, Raut was forced to retract his statement later.
Indira Gandhi was our leader. and is also our guiding force. To talk about such a senior leader in this manner will not be accepted by us at all. I know that Sena's Sanjay Raut was previously with the BJP and used to critise them during their alliance. But if they think that we will listen to them and stay quiet, then that will not be happening. We know how to hit back. If someone talks about our leaders in this way then well will not accept it any manner, " Nitin Raut said.
Another controversy broke out when in a clear indication of dissent brewing in the Congress party over joining hands with the Shiv Sena, former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan claimed that a similar situation had arisen in 2014 as well. He revealed that the Sena had approached him back then to form a coalition government so that BJP could be kept out of power. According to Prithviraj Chavan, he turned down the offer. Furthermore, he opined that an election loss and sitting in opposition were not unusual in politics.
However, Sena on Wednesday said that there was no question of the Sena approaching Congress to form the government in 2014 due to Congress' diminished state, via an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamana. Recalling the temporary split between BJP and Shiv Sena during the 2014 election – as they contested separately – Saamana stated taht Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan's comments were not logical and cannot be taken seriously.