In a major turn of events in the ongoing alliance negotiations between the Shiv Sena and the BJP, the Uddhav Thackeray-led party has stated a startling condition for its national ally.
Sena MP Sanjay Raut has demanded that if Narendra Modi is to be the Prime Minister of India in the event that the NDA returns to power after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, then the Maharashtra Chief Minister must be from the Shiv Sena. Currently, while the Sena and the BJP are in power together at the Centre, the state and the BMC, only the latter is officially led by a Sena politician.
They have to lose something to achieve something, Sanjay Raut has said, reiterating that the Shiv Sena is ready to contest the upcoming elections solo if need be. He has also proclaimed that the Sena is still the 'big brother' in the state of Maharashtra.
In the 2014 Maharashtra assembly elections, the BJP had emerged the single-largest party in the 288-seat house, winning a massive 122 on its own, while the Sena emerged second-largest with 63. BJP's Devendra Fadnavis was appointed the Chief Minister.
The two parties have been allies for over two decades - a period during which the BJP has grown into a dominant force in Indian politics. In recent months, the Sena and BJP relationship has appeared strained, with the Shiv Sena attacking its ally at every given opportunity, and the latter choosing to not reply in kind while negotiations are ongoing. Olive branches have been extended to the Sena on issues such as a Bal Thackeray memorial and others, even as the Sena has been unsparing on the BJP on a range of matters, especially over the construction of the Ram Mandir.
Meanwhile, even as the BJP and Sena are still to work out their seat-sharing (if any) the Congress and the NCP have progressed to an advanced stage in their seat-sharing negotiations in Maharashtra for the Lok Sabha elections.
Sanjay Raut has also remarked on the big political surprise thrown on Wednesday by Samajwadi party supremo Mulayam Singh who said in the Lok Sabha whilst seated next to a shocked Sonia Gandhi that as the Opposition parties would not be able to get a majority, he wanted Narendra Modi to return as the Prime Minister. In response to this, Raut said "I don't know which party Mulayam Singh Yadav is representing", adding "I don't know what is happening."