The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may have to shelve its master plan of defeating senior Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) ministers in the assembly polls, if the Shiv Sena does not agree to redistribute or exchange seats.
Riding high on the Modi wave and its excellent show in the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP is eyeing 59 assembly seats, some of which are represented by senior ministers, which are with the Sena but the latter has never won. In fact, these 59 seats are a major reason for the seat-sharing deadlock between the BJP and the Sena. The BJP wants around half these seats and has offered to consider conceding 19 seats it has never won.
The BJP’s carefully crafted plot will not work at all if the two parties decide to break the 25-year-old alliance and split votes in favour of the ruling parties, said a BJP leader. “The Sena has always fielded weak candidates against these established leaders, and based on our Lok Sabha experiment, we want to change this,” he added.
Foremost on the BJP’s agenda is capturing NCP leader and home minister RR Patil’s Tasgaon-Kavthe Mahankal seat in Sangli district. It has inducted former NCP leader Ajit Ghorpade into the party fold for this purpose. Ghorpade gave then Congress MP Pratik Patil a run for his money as a BJP-supported independent in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. His friend in the NCP, Sanjay Kaka Patil, defected to the BJP earlier this year and ended the Congress’ unbeaten run in Sangli in the Lok Sabha after beating Pratik by a huge margin. Ghorpade may contest as an independent if the Sena rejects the BJP’s request to vacate the seat.
The BJP also wants the neighbouring Palus-Kadegaon seat, represented by forest minister Patangrao Kadam (Congress). Prithviraj Deshmukh, who fought the last elections as an independent, is now BJP’s prospective candidate. The Sena did not contest here the last time, but has staked its claim now.
The BJP is also eyeing the Belapur seat, which is represented by excise minister Ganesh Naik. In 2009, the Sena had allowed the BJP to field real estate developer Suresh Hawre. Sources said the Sena is not willing to give up the seat this time for BJP aspirant and import from NCP, Manda Mhatre.
Others on the BJP’s hit list are minister of state Amit Deshmukh (Latur city), water supply minister Dilip Sopal (Barshi) and higher education minister Rajesh Tope (Jalna) where the Sena has rarely won. The party has also asked for Guhagar, which it had given in 2009 to the then Opposition leader Ramdas Kadam, who lost to minister Bhaskar Jadhav (NCP) in a triangular fight triggered by then sitting BJP legislator and rebel Vinay Natu. Natu has made the BJP his home again and will challenge Jadhav.
The party is also in talks with seven-term Congress MLA from Karad, Vilas Undarkar, because chief minister Prithviraj Chavan is looking to contest from here. Patil, however, is unwilling to vacate the seat.