'Fake Sena': PM Modi Presents Merger Offer, Pawar And Thackeray Vow To Remain Independent

Branding Thackeray and Pawar’s Shiv Sena and NCP as fake, Modi asked the veteran leaders to join hands with Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar

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Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) chief Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar during a press conference of INDIA alliance in Mumbai, Maharashtra on September 01, 2023. Photo: Getty Images

The splintered factions of Shiv Sena led by Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray and Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s offer to merge with ‘real Sena and NCP’ as a sign of desperation due to Bhartiya Janata Party’s impending defeat in Maharashtra. 

Branding Thackeray and Pawar’s congress">Shiv Sena and NCP as fake, at a rally in the Nandurbar constituency in northwest Maharashtra, Modi asked the veteran leaders to join hands with Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar. “Instead of dying with Congress, proudly flex your chest and join Ajit Dada and Shinde ji to fulfil all your dreams.”

In 2022 and 2023, Shiv Sena leader Shinde and NCP leader Ajit Pawar took majority of the party’s sitting MLAs and joined the BJP to form a three-party ruling alliance in the state under the coalition called Mahavikas Aghadi. The election commission has deemed the breakaway factions of Shinde and Ajit Pawar as ‘real’ and awarded them the political party’s name and election symbol. Following the rebellion, Thackeray and Sharad Pawar renamed their parties as Shiv Sena (UBT) and NCP (SP). The divisions of the original parties founded by Uddhav’s father Balasaheb Thackeray and Sharad Pawar have created confusion in Maharashtra over the real Sena and NCP.  

Addressing a rally ahead of the fourth phase of polls, Modi attacked Thackeray and Pawar without naming the two. “A big leader of Maharashtra who has been playing politics for the last 40-50 years, is very very worried after the polls in Baramati. He made a statement, which I believe was done after a lot of discussion and consultation. He has become frustrated and disappointed. (He said) after 4 June, if smaller political parties want to survive politically and socially then they should merge with Congress,” he said.

Modi’s comments came in the background of Sharad Pawar’s statement on May 4 to a local newspaper that in the coming years smaller parties across India facing threats from the BJP could merge with the Congress. 

Speaking to the media in Pune on Friday, Sharad Pawar said he cannot ally with any person, party or ideology which does not believe in parliamentary democracy. The arrests of Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren showed how much faith the central government had in the democratic system.

Rejecting Modi’s merger offer, Thackeray too said he will never join the BJP. In a video shared on the party’s X account from Thackeray’s rally, he said, “On one hand they call us fake Shiv Sena and NCP, on the other they say aaja meri gaadi mein baith jaa (join our alliance).”

“Sometimes they wink at me, sometimes at Pawar. They are looting Maharashtra in front of my eyes, I will never join you. Modi ji, I will show you the attitude of the so called fake Sena,” Thackeray said. 

NCP SP spokesperson Clyde Crasto told Outlook, that senior Pawar has always been clear that all the like-minded parties should come together and work. “There’s no way NCP SP is going anywhere or joining any party,” he said.

Earlier, campaigning in support of Ajit Pawar’s wife Sunetra Pawar contesting the Baramati seat against Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule, Modi labelled the senior Pawar as a ‘bhatakti aatma’ (restless soul.) The comment against the 83-year-old leader evoked sharp reactions from NCP supporters fuelling further anti-BJP sentiments in the state, party workers said. 

Crasto added it did not behove the PM to make personal attacks against Pawar. “These are signs of desperation and defeat in the BJP camp. They are on a backfoot right now and they have nothing left in the elections anymore.”