With the code of conduct for the assembly polls expected to come into effect in just a few days, the major alliances — Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena and Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) — saw hectic parleys and behind-the-scenes activity to seal seat-sharing arrangements.
Talks between the Congress- NCP had come to standstill with neither party willing to concede more seats. The NCP had sought 144 seats (an equal share) from the Congress and had expressed willingness to bring the number down to 140. The Congress was willing to concede only 120-124 seats to its ally.
Sources within the parties, however, said an agreement of 164:124 is most likely.
“The party top brass in Delhi had asked senior state leaders to finalise the seat-sharing formula keeping in mind the Congress’ current situation in the state and the country. The formal meeting has not yet been held and it is a question of who will blink first. But informal talks could lead to a consensus of 164:124,’’ said a senior party leader.
The NCP’s senior state leaders held a meeting late on Tuesday with party chief Sharad Pawar to discuss the issue. It is learned that the party is likely to bring down its demand from 144 seats to about 130.
For the saffron alliance, however, the smaller allies are proving to be a hindrance. Sources said these parties are adamant on getting prime seats such as south Karad – from where the CM is likely to contest – and Baramati where Ajit will hold fort. Both these parties don’t want to concede more than 18 seats to the four smaller parties in their Mahayuti.
“Our smaller allies want seats from 40 prime constituencies. Some want seats in Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Aurangabad where the BJP or Sena can get their own candidates,” said a senior BJP leader, who is involved in the negotiations with these allies.
The BJP – in case it gives seats from its quota to smaller allies – wants them to contest on its ‘lotus’ symbol to boost their chances of winning. “In the Lok Sabha polls, Mahadev Jankar [Rashtriya Samaj Paksha] gave a tough fight to NCP’s Supriya Pawar, but he trailed only because his election symbol was not well known,” said the leader.
The BJP and the Sena, however, have come to an understanding about seat sharing. While the BJP has asked for half of the 288 seats – it is willing to take a few seats less than the numbers demanded – the Sena is willing to agree to its ally’s demand. State BJP president Devendra Fadanavis said a consensus with all parties will be reached soon.
“Things are almost finalised. We will make a formal announcement soon,” he said, after meeting Swambhimani Paksha leader Raju Shetti. BJP’s other senior leader Eknath Khadse discussed the issue with RPI chief Ramdas Athawale.