Pre-election posturing or not, the rival political coalitions in Maharashtra were grappling with differences between the major allies on Monday as the countdown began for the October 15 assembly elections.
Tensions between the Shiv Sena and the BJP rose further with Uddhav Thackeray talking tough again. A reconciliation hinges on what transpires when BJP president Amit Shah visits the state between September 17 and 19. BJP insiders say the party’s state unit would like Shah to get tough with the Sena.
In a late-night development, the BJP called all core committee members of the party in Maharashtra to a meeting at Union minister Nitin Gadkari’s residence in New Delhi on Tuesday morning.
And what happens between the Sena and the BJP will, to an extent, determine the contours of the arrangement between the Congress and the NCP.
On Monday, Thackeray was firm that the Sena could not accept the BJP’s demand for 135 seats.
This comes a day after BJP state president Devendra Fadnavis told HT that the BJP had decided not to talk to the Sena on seat-sharing anymore, after Thackeray had, talking to TV channel Aaj Tak, questioned the Modi wave phenomenon.
Seat-sharing between the two parties which lead the Mahayuti alliance, early frontrunner in the upcoming polls, hit a roadblock after BJP started demanding an equal share of the 288 assembly seats, citing the Lok Sabha poll results where it won 23 seats to the Sena’s 18. In the 2009 assembly polls, the Sena contested 169 seats and the BJP 119, winning 44 and 46 respectively.
Now the BJP says that after allotting some seats to smaller allies such as the RPI (A) and the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, the two major Mahayuti constituents should take 135 seats each. The Sena has been reluctant to accept this formula under which the party that wins more seats gets the chief minister’s post too.
On Monday, Thackeray said things could go awry if matters were stretched further. “There is a limit to how much things should be stretched. I have made it clear to the BJP that we cannot give them the number of seats they are asking for (135 seats). Everything cannot happen according to their convenience,” he said.
Thackeray said the two parties had come together not for sharing power but on the issue of Hindutva. He expected a solution in the next 2-3 days.
He was clear the Sena would go ahead with “mission 150”, the number of seats it wanted to win on its own, pointing out that the BJP too had set such a target during the Lok Sabha election. “If they can have a ‘mission 272’, why can’t we have our ‘mission 150’? Every party has the right to expand and spread its wings.”
Thackeray stood by his statement on Modi (“Did the Modi wave show in Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Orissa and West Bengal? It depends on alliance partners as well. Modi is Prime Minister of our alliance.”), but said he was not in favour of breaking the alliance. He insisted that the talks between the two parties were still going on.
Though the BJP’s Maharashtra in-charge Rajiv Pratap Rudy dismissed speculation over the coalition’s stability, party insiders said the state unit would urge Shah to go it alone if the Sena continued to prove recalcitrant. “The Sena has been insulting our party and our leaders repeatedly through its mouthpiece Saamna and public utterances by their senior leaders,” said a party general secretary, adding that the state unit would love to contest the polls separately.
Rudy, however, played down such sentiments in the BJP. “There is nothing alarming as of now. Reports about a strain in the alliance are mere speculation. Both parties are mature enough to decide the issue amicably,” he told reporters in Mumbai.