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BJP’s partners seek all they can get

Elections are round the corner, and the allies of big parties are coming into their own. Ask the BJP.

india Updated: Feb 28, 2009 00:34 IST
Shekhar Iyer

Elections are round the corner, and the allies of big parties are coming into their own. Ask the BJP.

Maharashtra, Bihar, Orissa, Punjab, Assam and Haryana have 145 seats in the Lok Sabha — and the BJP knows it can do well in these states only with the help of its allies. But they are acting tough, playing for the best deal possible.

As BJP’s prime-ministerial candidate L.K. Advani pointed out recently, the problem has been compounded by the delimitation of constituencies. Several constituencies the parties had previously held or contested have ceased to exist.

Also, the allies are not playing altogether straight.

Long-time partner Shiv Sena is rumoured to be in talks with Sharad Pawar’s NCP in Maharashtra. There is even talk of a coalition formula for both in the state and in Delhi.

On Friday, BJP chief Rajnath Singh called Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray to ask about his ailing father. And then the conversation veered towards politics. Thackeray is deputing two leaders for talks with the BJP.

In Bihar, CM Nitish Kumar wants to take the call on how to share the 40 seats to be fought by the JD(U)-BJP alliance — and when. As in 2004, the JD(U) will contest 24 of these seats and the remaining will be left for the BJP. But Kumar wants to juggle the constituencies. And he wants to wait for Lalu Prasad’s list of candidates before the NDA’s is announced.

In Orissa, assembly polls are to be held along with the Lok Sabha polls. Alliance partner BJD’s Naveen Patnaik wants to contest more assembly seats than his party did in 2004 — to strengthen his hold on the state. He is offering the BJP one more Lok Sabha seat in exchange — seven assembly seats for one Lok Sabha seat.

In Punjab, which has 13 Lok Sabha seats, the BJP is trying for two more seats – apart from the three it contested last time. But alliance partner Akali Dal looks in no mood to yield.

In Haryana, BJP leaders said their party would contest six of the 10 Lok Sabha seats but ally INLD said nothing had been finalised.

In Assam, the BJP has finalised a seat-sharing pact — with the Asom Gana Parishad getting seven of the state’s 14 Lok Sabha constituencies. But there is a dispute over which party will contest from Guwahati.