The Shiv Sena-BJP alliance was kept intact on Friday after senior leaders of both parties met and decided to begin negotiations with a new seat-sharing formula. The alliance had reached breaking point as the parties had suspended talks last week owing to differences over seat sharing for the October 15 Maharashtra Assembly polls.
Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s son Aaditya and senior party leader Subhash Desai held talks with BJP in-charge OP Mathur on Friday evening. At the time of going to press, both sides were engaged in discussions at the Mayor’s bungalow.
“We are still discussing things,” said Desai, adding that the alliance will survive.
The Sena has agreed to consider a new proposal for sharing seats — Sena’s 59 and BJP’s 19 — that both parties have not won in the last 25 years. This was agreed upon after the BJP refused to accept the 119 seats offer and reminded the Sena about the sacrifices it has made in the past to save the alliance.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Cabinet colleague Nitin Gadkari met twice in New Delhi on Friday to discuss the situation. Sources said it was on the PM’s instructions that the state core committee, which met Friday afternoon, proposed a new formula to the Sena. Gadkari, who was to visit the city on Friday evening, cancelled his trip citing health reasons.
Sources from the Sena said the party top brass was unwilling to accept less than 150 seats, while the under the formula suggested by the BJP, the former will get less than 150 seats and the latter would have around 125 seats, 10 less than their initial demand. The four smaller allies are proposed to be given 15 to 18 seats.
State BJP president Devendra Fadnavis demanded that all doubts be cleared once and for all. “The two sides still have serious differences. The Sena says our demand is unjust, while we too feel they are unjust. We have many things to decide [before the final outcome is decided],” he said.
Friday’s moves, however, have not brought relief to the cadre of both parties, as there is still no outcome with the process of filing nominations beginning on Saturday.
Eknath Khadse, Opposition leader in the Assembly, said his party had given six Lok Sabha seats and one Rajya Sabha seat to the Sena in the past. “Most of them were sitting positions. Of late, we accommodated RPI’s Ramdas Athvale on the Rajya Sabha seat held by Prakash Javadekar,” said Khadse, after the BJP state core committee meeting.
The tension between the allies escalated after the BJP demanded an equal share of the state’s 288 Assembly seats, citing the Lok Sabha poll results, where they won 23 seats against the Sena’s 18. In 2009, the Sena had contested 169 seats and the BJP 119, winning 44 and 46, respectively. Later, talks were suspended after Udhhav Thackeray raised doubts over the impact of a Modi wave in the state polls.
On Thursday, BJP’s national president Amit Shah had asked for an immediate response from the Sena, but his demand for protecting the BJP’s self-esteem did not go well with their ally. Sniffing “arrogance” in Shah’s statements made at public rallies in western Maharashtra, the Sena said no one could issue them an ultimatum and asked the BJP to accept 119 seats or forget the pact.