After two weeks of bickering over seats, the fate of the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance for the upcoming Mumbai polls may get decided in the next 24 hours. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s address at a party rally at the National Exhibition and Convention Centre grounds in Goregaon on Thursday, is likely to decide whether the saffron allies will contest solo or together.
The nominations of the candidates, contesting the Mumbai civic polls, will begin a day later on January 27.
While the stalemate over the alliance talks continued on Wednesday, sources across both the parties said that the doors on the alliance had not yet been completely closed. Majority of the leaders, whom HT spoke to said that the final call still rested with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Thackeray. There was no confirmation whether both the leaders discussed the alliance till late on Wednesday. The activities in both the party camps, however, revealed that parties were preparing ground to go solo.
``If Thackeray takes a cautious line on the alliance, the signal is that the alliance can still happen. There is a likelihood of CM speaking to Thackeray on Thursday. If Thackeray decides to call it off, we are all set to contest all 227 seats and we also don’t have to take on the ill will of having broken the alliance,’’ said a senior BJP leader.
He said that the main hurdle in the seat sharing talks was about how many confirmed seats BJP should get, without any discussion with the partner. ``We wanted them to give us a free hand with 80 seats, the rest could have been up for discussion. But, the Sena was willing to give us only 60 seats without holding any discussion. The alliance can be closed at 105 seats but now all rests with how Sena chief wants to play this,’’ he added.
Shiv Sena leader Anil Parab said, ``Neither have we received any revised proposal from the BJP, nor have we sent one. Now, Uddhav saheb will say whatever has to be said at tomorrow’s function.”
During the day while Shiv Sena leaders spent most of the day in finalizing arrangements for Thursday’s party gathering in Goregaon, BJP leaders finalized their party’s manifesto. All of Sena’s 50,000 gat pramukhs and foot soldiers are expected to attend the event. Soon after, on Friday BJP will hold its own rally led by Fadnavis at the same venue.
BJP, playing catch up after Sena released its social media campaign a day earlier, also issued posters on occasion of National Voters’ day that headlined Fadnavis and Prime Minister Narendra Modi with party president Amit Shah, state president Raosaheb Danve and city unit chief Asish Shelar also featuring in the background. The BJP posters took credit for installing CCTVs in Mumbai, planning Metro network, free wi fi spots etc.
For now, it’s wait and watch for both the camps.
The reason both Thackeray and Fadnavis had been hopeful for an alliance was to avoid bitterness given that both the parties would have to remain allies in the state government post civic polls. They are also aware that a post poll alliance is imminent even if the parties contest Mumbai civic elections separately.
However, the trust deficit between the allies and the sentiment of the party units to go solo has weighed down the possibility of a tie up, said sources. With time running short, finalizing the tricky seats where both the parties have an interest especially in the western suburbs, is also being seen as an impossible task ahead of any tie up.
If there is a split in the alliance, candidates finalized by parties will start filing nominations from Friday. If there is a tie up, there will continue to be delay in finalizing candidates till the last minute to avoid rebellion.
So far, on the basis of its exponential rise during the Lok Sabha and Maharashtra assembly elections, the BJP has demanded 114 of the 227 seats in Mumbai, up from the 63 it contested in 2012. The Sena however, had offered just 60, in an attempt to cut the BJP to size after being reduced to a junior partner in the alliance at the state level.