Sacrifices for the big brother | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times

Sacrifices for the big brother

Feb 26, 2024 08:06 AM IST

Maharashtra coalitions finalize seat-sharing as BJP plans to contest 30 seats independently, causing tensions within ruling alliance. Controversy over BJP chief's remarks stirs opposition. Speculations arise over netas defecting to ruling alliance, including NCP leader Tope and Shiv Sena's Waikar. Shinde Sena MLA faces probe over bragging about tiger tooth.

With the general elections expected to be announced in a fortnight, both coalitions in Maharashtra are busy finalising seat-sharing pacts. This is a time-consuming job, as both coalitions have three prominent parties and a couple of smaller allies.

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As far as the ruling alliance is concerned, it is by now clear that big brother BJP already has a plan of how many seats it will contest on its own how many will go to the two allies, chief minister Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar-led NCP. BJP insiders say the party is clear about contesting 30 seats – this includes 23 seats the party won in 2019 as well as some seats won by the Shiv Sena and the NCP. The list includes and Hingoli where BJP’s position seems to have improved with the inclusion of Ashok Chavan.

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In the 2019 elections, BJP contested 25 seats in the state, winning 23, while the erstwhile Shiv Sena contested 23 and won 18. Out of the undivided Sena’s 18 MPs, 13 are with the Shinde faction while five are with the Thackery faction.

This time, Shinde has staked claim on 19 seats, but he won’t get that many. The BJP wants to contest south Mumbai, Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg and Parbhani, which are currently represented by Shiv Sena (UBT) MPs, as well as Ramtek, Hingoli and Buldhana where the sitting MPs are with the Shinde faction. If the BJP has its way, Shinde will have to sacrifice these seats for the big brother and his party may end up contesting about 10 seats.

On the other hand, Ajit Pawar has not staked claim on the 19 seats that the undivided NCP contested in alliance with the Congress in 2019. Out of four NCP MPs, only Sunil Tatkare from the Raigad constituency is with the Ajit Pawar faction. The BJP expects him to focus on western Maharashtra, particularly the seats where the Sharad Pawar faction sems to have strong presence. As of now, Ajit Pawar has turned his entire attention to Baramati where his wife Sunetra is set to contest, and the neighbouring Shirur, where the sitting MP Amol Kolhe is with senior Pawar. He is also keen on fielding a candidate in the Satara constituency but the BJP is likely to renominate Maratha king Shivaji Maharaj’s descendent Udayanraje Bhonsle from the seat. Ajit Pawar and Bhonsle don’t see eye to eye, but it won’t be surprising to see both sharing dais soon.

Bawankule stirs a controversy

Alleged remarks by the state BJP chief Chandrashekhar Bawankule that BJP workers should finish smaller parties by accommodating their office-bearers and party workers has kicked up a storm. Bawankule was addressing booth pramukhs (heads) on Saturday when he made the alleged remark, eliciting strong reactions from smaller parties and the Opposition. Mahadev Jankar of Rashtriya Samaj Paksh (RSP) and Bachchu Kadu of Prahar Janshakti Paksh – both had contested the previous election as allies of the saffron combine – reacted saying they had similar experience with the BJP. Opposition leaders slammed the party saying its real face was revealed. BJP leaders, however, denied Bawankule making any such statement.

Maharashtra has at least a dozen small parties including the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, factions of the Republican party of India, RSP, Prahar, Jansurajya Shakti, Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, Peasants and Workers Party, Janata Dal (S) and Prahar. Most of them have aligned either with the BJP-led front or the opposition front. Will they rally against BJP after Bawankule’s remarks? Unlikely. Their decisions are based on their immediate interests and not long-term plans.

More netas to join the ruling alliance?

A closed-door meeting between former state health minister and NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar) leader Rajesh Tope and deputy chief minister and NCP leader Ajit Pawar has set tongues wagging about his imminent defection. Tope met Ajit Pawar in Pune and then joined the senior Pawar at Raigad fort, where the new symbol of NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar) was formally launched. Though Tope said the meeting was not political, there are speculations that he is tapping the possibility of switching sides.

Speculations are rife that Shiv Sena (UBT) legislator Ravindra Waikar too may join Shinde-led Shiv Sena soon. Rumor mills were abuzz earlier when Waikar was scheduled to attend a programme on Shinde’s birthday on February 9. But the programme was called off as Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Abhishek Ghosalkar was killed the same day.

Tiger tooth puts Shinde’s MLA in trouble

Bragging about a tiger tooth he wears has put Shinde Sena MLA from Buldhana Sanjay Gaikwad in trouble. Forest authorities have confiscated the tooth and initiated a probe against him under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 after a video featuring him claiming the tooth was of a tiger killed in 1987 went viral. The tooth has been sent to a Dehradun-based laboratory to ascertain if it is a tiger’s. If found guilty, he could face imprisonment for up to three years.

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    Shailesh Gaikwad is political editor and heads the political bureau in Hindustan Times' Mumbai edition.In his career of over 20 years, he has covered Maharashtra politics, state government and urban governance issues.

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