After hectic negotiations, the Republican Party of India (RPI) on Saturday finally dumped its old ally Shiv Sena and decided to go along with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming assembly polls.
RPI chief Ramdas Athawale met BJP national president Amit Shah and finally agreed to join forces with the BJP after he was promised 8 seats from the latter.
"We had detailed discussions with the BJP leaders today (Saturday) and they have accepted most of our demands as well as to work for the welfare of the Dalits in the state," RPI-A president Ramdas Athawale said.
"The BJP has also assured to seriously consider the issues of the Dalits, including housing in cities like Mumbai, so we have decided to ally with them," he said.
According to sources, Athawale was adamant on getting a cabinet berth in the Union Cabinet from the BJP which the latter was not ready to commit. The state BJP said that it was ready to recommend his name for the same.
After hours of negotiations with state leaders and meeting Amit Shah, Athawale agreed to go with the BJP.
The RPI leaders were apprehensive of Sena's offer of the post of deputy chief ministership as the Sena has yet to get power while the BJP is firmly entrenched in the centre.
Some of the notable candidates include Deepak Nikhalje, brother of underworld don Chhota Rajan from Chembur and also former encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma who will contest from Andheri (east).
With this, the BJP has secured the support of all the four other constituents of its old alliance with the Shiv Sena, from which its 25-year-old alliance broke up Thursday.
These include: RPI-A, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, Rashtriya Samaj Paksh and Shiv Sangram. While Athawale has demanded 10 assembly seats, the BJP has so far conceded eight seats, besides a share in power if the alliance formed the government after the October 15 elections.
Meanwhile the Samajwadi Party (SP) got a rude shock on Friday midnight when the state Congress leaders expressed their inability to ally with them after the alliance the previous day.
"We had planned to field at least 77 seats candidates but struck an alliance with 8 seats to stop the division of secular votes. However now the Congress back stabbed us as now it is too late for us to distribute forms in the rural parts of the state within such a short time," rued SP state president Abu Azmi.
The All Indian Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) in its list fielded Shahid Rafi, son of legendary singer Mohammad Rafi from Mumbadevi and Waaris Pathan, a famous criminal lawyer from Byculla constituency.