The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) sprang a surprise on Sunday by offering outside support for the BJP to form the government in Maharashtra, leaving the Shiv Sena little room to bargain with its former ally.
BJP sources said they would like to revive ties with the Sena, but the party was not prepared to accept too many demands. Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said in the evening that he was yet to receive a proposal from the BJP.
Thackeray called up Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah to congratulate them on the party’s victory, signalling a thaw in the icy relationship.
The BJP more than doubled its seat count in the state but fell short of majority in an election where it ran on its own after ending a 25-year-old coalition with the Sena.
“They (Shiv Sena) were not ready to give us three extra seats. It has been established who was right. But we did not break the alliance. We continued our support to them in the Mumbai municipal corporation and they remained a part of the Union government,” Shah told reporters.
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The BJP’s tactics to contest more seats and get majority on its own may not have been a complete success but its strategy to prove itself a dominant force in Maharashtra was a hit. Its vote share jumped from 14% to 27% and the number of legislators went up from 46 to 122.
The party managed to increase its footprints in the state by contesting about 260 seats compared to 117 when it was in alliance with the Shiv Sena.
The Sena had softened its stance over the past two days saying there was no animosity between the two parties, but following the fractured mandate some of its leaders said the party could still get the chief minister’s chair.
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The BJP parliamentary board which met in the evening studied the poll results and took note of the NCP's offer of unconditional support without giving it much importance.
It was decided in the meeting that home minister Rajnath Singh will go to Maharashtra and urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu to Haryana to elect the leader of the BJP legislature party in the two states.
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The BJP is largely in favour of keeping the Shiv Sena on board to provide stability to the state government and the Maharashtra leadership has been asked to warmly reciprocate to any gestures from the Sena, sources said.
The details of how to reach out to the Sena are expected after a meeting of the BJP legislature party in Mumbai in the next two-three days. “Our first assignment is to elect a leader of the legislature party, who would be the next chief minister of the state. We are in no hurry to talk to the Sena,” a central office-bearer of the BJP said.
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Sources said while the NCP's proposal has provided a cushion to the BJP, leaders were not inclined to bank solely on the support of the party that has been a bitter critic for many years.
Political analysts called the NCP’s offer a calculated move to impress the BJP which hit it hard in the poll campaign. While canvassing, Modi made Sharad Pawar’s party his prime target, accusing senior leaders of large-scale corruption.
Full coverage: Maharashtra, Haryana assembly elections