In its seat-sharing formula with the Republican Party of India (RPI), the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have not sacrificed a single seat where they already have a sitting corporator.
In the poll pact to be announced on Wednesday, the saffron combine has given 29 seats to its new alliance partner RPI for the civic poll.
However, the Sena and BJP don’t hold 26 of the 29 seats. Of the 26, Congress hold nine seats, NCP hold five, Samajwadi Party hold four, Akhil Bharatiya Sena hold two, Bahujan Samaj Party hold one and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena also holds one seat. Therefore, the RPI will have to struggle to win these seats. The RPI, however, succeeded in retaining the three seats, which it won in the 2007 polls. Of the 29 seats, 20 have been given from the Sena’s quota and nine have been given from the BJP’s quota
Gautam Sonawane, Mumbai RPI chief said, “We have not finalised the seats that we are contesting from yet, so I cannot comment.”
A senior Sena functionary pointed out that the party’s deal with the RPI also includes supporting Athawale in the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha elections. “This factor was also considered while offering seats to the RPI,” he said. While Sena has offered to support Athawale in south central Mumbai’s parliamentary constituency (currently represented by Congress MP Eknath Gaikwad) in 2014 general elections, the RPI chief is keen on a direct nomination to the Rajya Sabha from the Sena quota. Sena leader Subhash Desai did not comment on the issue.
Interview | Ramdas Athawale, RPI president
‘Sena-BJP alliance a non-ideological one’
Call it an experiment or a political gamble, Republican Party of India (RPI) chief Ramdas Athawale has upset the calculations of political parties by joining hands with the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance in the upcoming civic polls.
If it clicks, this could be a start to a new equation in Maharashtra politics. If he fails, he may end up losing his support base.
Unperturbed, Athawale, chief of the Republican Party of India, in an interview with Sayli Udas-Mankikar, says his aim is to defeat the Congress and come to power.
Are you happy with the 29 seats you got in the seat-sharing pact with the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance?
Frankly speaking, I am not happy. We want one more. When we began talks I thought we would get around 35 seats. But looking at the tug-of-war between the Sena and BJP, we backed off.
Your alliance with the Sena-BJP, who you opposed for over two decades, is a new political experiment in Maharashtra politics. Isn’t it a gamble?
No. In a parliamentary democracy, some decisions need to be taken to come into power. You can call our alliance with the Sena-BJP a practical non-ideological alliance based on a common minimum program. We decided to go the other way after being betrayed by the Congress. We are united on the issues of Dalit atrocities, development, anti-corruption and price-rise.
Many traditional saffron voters might not vote for the RPI and vice-versa? What if this experiment fails?
The mood is different this time around – it is anti-Congress. Saffron voters will certainly respond to the Sena chief’s call to support this alliance. As for the RPI voters, the decision of an alliance was taken in consultation with them.
Are you worried about the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena? Many young RPI sympathisers have moved to support the MNS chief Raj Thackeray?
The blue colour in the MNS flag has attracted them. Raj has never raised issues specific to the Dalits. When we were with the Congress we were not able to take up the price rise and power cut issues, which the MNS supported. But now, after joining hands with the Shiv Sena, things have changed and the youth are back with us.
What next after the BMC elections? Are you hoping to contest Lok Sabha seat from Mumbai with support from your new partners or get a Rajya Sabha seat?
I have not come into this alliance with any expectations. Our next target is 2014 elections. However, if they (Sena-BJP) want to give me Rajya Sabha I do not mind talking about it.