Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in his address at the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) state executive meet in Thane on Thursday prepared the ground for a possible alliance with the Shiv Sena in the upcoming polls, by asking his cadre to look at the big picture to make India “Congress-free”.
But he put a caveat, saying such an alliance would be possible only on the BJP’s agenda of transparency and transformation inspired by the Prime Minister. “We have decided we will usher in complete transparency in work and that is our direction. But as we move in this direction, understand why we speak of a coalition. After so many years under PM Modi’s leadership, there is a possibility of a Congress-free India. The Congress, its off-shoot parties and leaders have looted the country and the state. A coalition is to ensure these powers don’t get strength,” said Fadnavis.
Fadnavis, in his speech, also tried to appropriate the Maratha warrior king, Shivaji and his soldiers. He told his party cadre to fight like mavlas, Shivaji’s soldiers, in the upcoming electoral battle, without a care for the enemy, keeping trust in their king and his aim of good governance.
Even the PM, Fadnavis said, had no personal agenda and only worked for the benefit of the country.
“Under PM Modi, the country is heading for a transformation by 2019. If an alliance has to be happen, it will happen on the agenda to transform Maharashtra and transparency, not just for power or on basis of seat-sharing,” he said. Taking a cue from the speech, party leaders and political observers said unless the saffron allies formalised a pact, there would be no finality or clarity on the saffron alliance.
It’s clear, however, that the parties will go ahead with the talks. From the BJP, state president Raosaheb Danve, education minister Vinod Tawde and city chief Ashish Shelar are likely to hold the talks, while from Sena industries minister Subhash Desai and party MP Anil Desai, both Uddhav Thackeray’s trusted leaders, will be soldiers in the negotiations. The talks are likely to go on for a while. In the meanwhile, Fadnavis and Thackeray will also hold direct communication.
While no one from the BJP spelt out the “transparent agenda” that will be brought to the table, it is learnt the party wants the Sena to concede at least 105 seats in the BMC, in case of an alliance. This includes the share for BJP’s ally, Republican Party of India (A). The Sena may be willing to concede between 90 to 100 seats, said sources. “Last election, we gave 63 seats to the BJP and 22 to the RPI. This time, with the RPI not being there, we can give those seats to the BJP too, and a few beyond that,” a senior party functionary said.
Meanwhile, the conclave saw BJP leaders and party cadre insisting on going solo in the polls to 10 municipal corporations and 25 district councils. They claimed the party would single-handedly win the polls. The sentiment in the party is against a coalition with the Sena, given the recent high of winning big in the municipal council polls and Thackeray’s consistent attacks on BJP’s central leadership.
BJP legislator Madhu Chavan sent a proposal to contest solo in the polls, which was accepted by all present with a show of hands. The backdrop of the dias at the venue called for shat pratishat BJP or 100 per cent BJP.
Many in the party feel they are heading towards a re-run of the 2014 Assembly polls, when the seat sharing negotiation stretched out and then broke down last minute. “We don’t want a bad name for breaking an alliance, so talks will happen and that’s exactly what the CM has indicated. But we want at least 105 seats in the BMC. Will the Sena give it to us?” asked a senior party leader.
While the Sena party cadre prefers to not have an alliance , sources said Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is keen on out an alliance. “It is a possibility that the BJP might register a strong victory in the Mumbai civic polls and this might embarrass the Sena,” a senior party leader said, adding there is a likelihood of the alliance taking shape.