Even as the tension between the two allies may have eased after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah met Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai on Thursday, the BJP has no plans to stop pressurising the Sena into giving more seats for the assembly polls, claim insiders.
“We aren’t the younger brother to the Sena any more,” Shah told the party’s core committee on Thursday, asking state leaders to talk tough and proceed as equal partners in the alliance.
With a strong brief at their disposal and Shah’s emissary Om Prakash Mathur in charge of seat-sharing talks, the BJP is expected to talk tough on its equal share demand with the Sena, whenever the two meet. In fact, it has intensified its bullying tactics.
Party senior Eknath Khadse said Friday that the BJP has given a lot to the Sena and now it was the Sena’s turn to reciprocate. He said the BJP had reduced its seat share in the Lok Sabha in the previous elections, vacated seats that it had been holding and even parted with a sitting Rajya Sabha seat to accommodate Sena’s ally RPI’s Ramdas Athwale.
A senior Sena leader said there was no discussion between Shah and Thackeray on the number of seats. “But we have decided to sort out the issue amicably. We are ready to exchange seats where the Sena has lost more than thrice and the BJP has a chance of winning. But we are not ready to give away extra seats,” he said.
A cautious Sena decided not to make any public statement or give out any opinion against its ally till the seat-sharing deal is finalised. It is ready with a list of candidates where it has been winning, and the segments where it could win. It has decided to deliberate on contentious seats- about 20-25 of them- in the final stages.
“There will be a few rounds of talks in the Mahayuti over the next week. We will declare candidates in phases. If all goes well, then the list of 288 seats should be out by September 10,” said a senior Sena leader.
The two parties also need to sort out issues with smaller allies, which have scaled down their demand for seats. The BJP wants the Sena to share the burden, after splitting the 288 seats in a 50:50 formula. It is not ready to give Sena 169 seats like in the past and has decided to settle for not less than 135 seats for itself.