Propelled by its performance in the Lok Sabha and anticipating a fallout with the Shiv Sena, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has already finalised the candidates for constituencies, which were earlier held by the Sena.
The party which wins 145 seats will form a government in the state. With an eye on victory, the BJP is expected to contest 250 of the total 288 Assembly seats and wishes to win half of them, albeit an ambitious target, at a time when the state witnesses multi-corner fights. The BJP will fight the 133 Assembly segments it was leading in the 24 Lok Sabha seats early this year, a task for which it has roped in four allies.
Sources said the BJP may even tie up with the Sena after the polls, as was evident in its stand on Thursday. “Friendship is forever, we will not act or campaign in a manner which will hurt the Sena’s sentiments,” said state BJP president Devendra Fadnavis.
The BJP’s thrust is on giving good candidates, as with many options, voters will look for good candidates, and not just the party. As a national party, the BJP’s challenge will also be taming the agendas of regional parties such as the Sena, MNS and the NCP, which has influential satraps in its ranks.
The BJP has proposed to give 20 seats each to the Swambhimani Shetkari Paksha (Raju Shetti), the Republican Party of India (Ramdas Athawale) and Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (Mahadev Jankar). It will give 8 seats to Shiv Sangram-led by Vinayak Mete. At the time of going to press, the discussions were still on.
Its fiefdoms – Vidarbha and north Maharashtra – where it has been consistently getting good numbers though will remain its focus. With a dedicated cadre which helped the Sena win seats in these parts of the state, the BJP expects to topple all others in the race in western Vidarbha.
With MNS and Congress splitting the votes, Mumbai will remain a challenge for the BJP.
In western Maharashtra, the BJP will have to depend a lot on its allie, especially in places where the Sena has not won maximum seats in 25 years. The BJP will share seats with allies depending on the local equations, so that the new alliance manages to defeat some senior ministers, including home minister RR Patil.
Thane district and Konkan, though are likely to be a struggle for the BJP. Insiders said the party has a cadre in certain segments in these regions and it could pull off a better show without the Sena.