The Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may have pledged to keep their alliance alive, amidst the seat-sharing row, but Saturday’s developments continued to threaten the country’s oldest alliance, with state BJP president Devendra Fadnavis objecting to the Sena’s revised offer.
Sources said, in a late night development, the BJP asked its district chiefs to be prepared for any outcome of the talks. The party has also identified candidates for all 288 Assembly seats if talks fail.
The Sena had earlier on Saturday proposed to give the BJP 126 seats, but only if nine of these seats are given to smaller allies. The Sena would keep 155 and give seven seats to ally Swabhimani Paksha.
“After giving away nine seats to allies, we will have only 117 seats for us,” Fadnavis said, after his meeting with Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray to discuss the seat sharing.
Earlier, Subhash Desai (the Sena leader who conveyed the offer to BJP) had asked Fadnavis to get in touch with Uddhav after thinking about the offer.
Sena leader Anil Desai - among the two leaders who conveyed the offer to the BJP at MP Poonam Mahajan’s residence - maintained there was no tension between the allies and expected the BJP to keep his party informed of the decision the BJP’s core committee takes. The core committee met twice on Saturday.
The core committee, however, was not happy with the Sena’s offer. Senior leaders even asked party high command to break the alliance, instead of facing consistent humiliation.
“Are we fools to accept this insane offer? Earlier they offered us 119, including a share for allies. The Sena must come down to 140 or else face break-up,” a leader told the core committee.
BJP’s state poll in-charge OP Mathur, who has been interacting with Sena leaders, including Thackeray’s son Aaditya, led a fresh round of talks on Friday night. The core committee has finalised a list of candidates to be approved by the high command."Our central parliamentary board will meet in New Delhi on Sunday," Mathur said.
BJP sources said their high command will take a decision only after the meeting between Fadnavis and Thackeray. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his Cabinet colleague Nitin Gadkari and party president Amit Shah are monitoring the situation, they said.
Earlier this week, the Sena, with an eye on the chief minister’s post, refused to reduce its share from 169 (of 288) that it had in the 2009 polls. After offering the BJP 119 seats on Thursday, it revised the figure to 126, but with the rider of the nine seats.
The BJP, however, insisted on 130 seats – five less than its earlier demand. It asked the Sena to come down to 140 seats and distribute the remaining 18 between four other allies. The BJP’s demand is based on the results of the Lok Sabha polls in May, where it won 23 seats and the Sena, 18.
The BJP has also been citing the fact that there are 59 Assembly seats the Sena has never won.
Talks between the allies was about to collapse last week, after Thackeray questioned the impact of a Modi wave for the state polls. Thackeray will meet Sena’s district unit chiefs on Sunday, where he may speak on the ongoing tussle over seat-sharing.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission issued a notification for the Assembly polls on Saturday. The returning officers started accepting nominations from candidates and the last date for this is September 27.
Read: Silent on Sena, Shah urges workers to bring BJP to power