The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) national president Amit Shah landed in Mumbai on Wednesday to resolve the dispute with the Shiv Sena over seat-sharing amid signs that neither side was willing to budge.
In fact, the two parties continued to send out signals that they would go their separate ways if they couldn’t get their way.
The BJP, however, has sent the list of 119 candidates, the same number it put up in 2009, to the parliamentary board, but continues to press for 135 seats, said former state BJP President Sudhir Mungantiwar.
The Sena taunted the BJP in an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamna, which said the bypoll results should be a lesson not to take people for granted.
Shah has had to intervene for the second time in a fortnight as state BJP leaders have failed to convince Sena president Uddhav Thackeray to share the 288 assembly seats equally. Shah and Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari, who is still the most influential BJP leader in Maharashtra, were scheduled to hold a prolonged meeting with state leaders late Wednesday night at a Bandra hotel.
Party insiders say the BJP could accept fewer seats if there was a reshuffle of the constituencies it gets to contest.
The BJP is eyeing some 59 seats the Sena rarely wins. And there are some 19 seats the BJP has never won since 1980.
BJP sources said Shah who would be in the city till Thursday morning has not shown any hurry to call on Thackeray.
The Sena chief, meanwhile, held meetings with party functionaries through the day. He has already called a meeting of the Sena’s district unit chiefs from across the state on September 19.
Wednesday’s editorial in the Saamna said: “Don’t take people for granted. Keep your feet on the ground. Those who learn the lesson (from the bypoll) will win Maharashtra or else people will turn them upside down,” Saamna said. The editorial, which is seen as reflecting Thackeray’s views, however, said the bypoll result did not mean Narendra Modi’s influence was on the decline and that the Prime Minister was doing a fantastic job.
The BJP snapped talks last weekend after the Sena chief raised doubts about a Modi wave during the Lok Sabha polls. The BJP has been demanding an equal share of the 288 Assembly seats, citing the Lok Sabha poll results where it won 23 seats to the Sena’s 18. In the 2009 Assembly polls, the Sena contested 169 seats and the BJP 119, winning 44 and 46 respectively.
Now the BJP says the two parties should leave some seats (about 18) to smaller allies and share the rest equally. Thackeray has said the Sena will not meet the BJP’s demand for extra seats. He aspires to be chief minister and the party with the most legislators is likely to claim the post if the saffron combine wins power on October 15.
The BJP leaders have told Shah that the party would be left with nothing if it did not revise the old seat-sharing formula under which it would have to give away seats to the smaller allies from its own quota.
The restless junior partners have demanded that the alliance be finalised soon and they be given a good share of the seats. The Swambhiman Shetkari Sanghatana’s Raju Shetti and the RPI’s Ramdas Athvale conveyed their views to the BJP’s and Sena’s top leadership on Wednesday.