With just three days left for filing of nominations, the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance was struggling to reach a consensus on sharing seats, though chances for a resolution brightened late on Wednesday.
Smaller allies who were unhappy with meagre number of seats offered, later softened and said they would be satisfied with 14. “We are ready to accept 14 seats instead of 18 to keep the alliance intact,” said the RSP’s Mahadev Jankar late on Wednesday.
Following this, the two major allies will work out their seat-sharing. If the Sena retains 150 or 151, the BJP will have to be happy with 123 or 124 seats. The details were still being discussed at the time of going to press.
In the rival camp, the Congress and the NCP were finding it difficult to work out a pact. This follows the NCP’s demand for sharing the chief ministership for two and a half years each, if the alliance returns to power.
After the smaller allies threatened to quit the alliance saying they were getting a raw deal, the Sena-BJP tried to placate them with some additional seats as well as promises of a share in power.
Three of the smaller allies — the Swabhimaan Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS), the Shiv Sangram, and the Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSP) -- accused the Sena-BJP of sacrificing them for their own interests. Things took a serious turn on Wednesday as the allies threatened to quit the Mahayuti (grand alliance) and form a parallel alliance to contest elections. They said the decision of the Sena-BJP to reduce their share considerably from the original 18 was a betrayal. “They conveniently used us [in the Lok Sabha polls] and are now dumping us,” said SSS leader Sadabhau Khot.
The delay in pacifying the smaller allies was also because of one-upmanship between the Sena and the BJP. While the Sena stood on prestige and said it would not contest less than 151 seats, the BJP put pressure for five more seats. Through the day, the BJP encouraged smaller allies to push the Sena for more seats.
There was a series of meetings but consensus could not be worked out. Shiv Sena sources said Uddhav Thackeray told leaders of the smaller alliance parties that he had already parted with 18 seats from the 169 that his party had contested in 2009 and that now it was between them and the BJP. After its meeting with smaller allies, the BJP said talks were going on in a positive note. “We will not let down the allies. The talks are going on well,” said Devendra Phadnavis, state BJP chief.
Meanwhile, the negotiations in the ruling camp came to a standstill with NCP going into a huddle and chief minister Prithviraj Chavan leaving for his home constituency Karad for the day. It is believed that the Congress through informal channels conveyed its offer of 124 seats plus another 4 seats (where the party has not won in the last 3 elections). Sources in the party said that it was waiting for the NCP to get back.
The NCP had upped its demand for 144 seats by also staking claim on the CM post for two and a half years if the alliance came to power. The partners may stitch together an agreement by Thursday with the NCP contesting 128 to 130 seats.
Meanwhile, the parties are likely to start releasing lists of candidates on Thursday except for the seats in dispute with their allies. It is also likely that several sitting MLAs will be asked by their parties to file nominations without waiting for the official list. For instance, the NCP’s minister of state Sachin Ahir and spokesperson Nawab Malik are the key leaders who will file their nominations.
Meanwhile, BJP national president Amit Shah will be coming to the city on Thursday for a function at Uttan.