Keen on spreading its base beyond Maharashtra and chipping at the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) vote share, the Shiv Sena plans to contest 200 seats, nearly half of the total constituencies, in the upcoming 2017 legislative assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
The Sena’s target is over six times of what the party had contested in the state during the 2012 assembly polls without any success. The party had contested 31 seats in the 2012 assembly polls and lost in all of them.
Sanjay Raut, a senior party leader and Rajya Sabha MP, was in Lucknow on Tuesday and Wednesday holding meetings with the Shiv Sena cadre in Uttar Pradesh and finalising a strategy for the 2017 polls to the 403-member assembly.
Raut said, “We are looking to contest all state legislative assembly elections to be held next year. In Uttar Pradesh, we have decided to contest 200 seats. We have a strong cadre in the state and have been polling votes.”
Raut said he has been holding meetings with former legislators and MPs across parties in Uttar Pradesh over Tuesday and Wednesday and many of them are keen on contesting from the Shiv Sena.
Until recently, the Sena was mostly dormant outside Maharashtra with there being an unsaid understanding with the BJP that while the latter mushrooms and proliferates into the rest of the country, the Sena retains its upper hand in the state. However, with the BJP trying to widen its reach in Maharashtra and the Shiv Sena now reduced to a junior partner in the alliance in the state, the Sena has been looking to aggressively expand its base in other states.
The party’s recent optimism in Uttar Pradesh also stems from recent elections to district panchayats in the state where it could manage to get about a dozen of its candidates elected, Raut said. Besides, the Sena is also buoyed by the number of votes it polled in its debut in the Bihar legislative assembly elections in 2015, though it could not clinch even a single of the 80 seats it contested. Overall, the Shiv Sena polled 2.11 lakh votes in Bihar, comprising 0.6 percent of the total vote share.
At the legislative assembly level in Uttar Pradesh, apart from getting one MLA elected in 1991, all of Sena’s previous attempts have drawn a blank. The party also received a drubbing during its most recent attempt in the by-poll of the communally-sensitive Muzaffaranagar, where the BJP triumphed.
Sena’s performance in UP
Muzaffaranagar by-election, 2016: The party’s candidate, Pankaj Bhardwaj, emerged seventh and polled just 482 out of the total 1.55 lakh votes cast
2012 assembly polls: Sena contested 31 seats without success, polled 0.37 percent votes in the seats contested
2007 assembly polls: Sena contested 59 seats without success, polled 0.5 percent votes in seats contested
2002 assembly polls: Sena contested 39 seats without success, polled 0.73 percent votes in seats contested