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Thursday, Oct 17, 2019

Working out seat-sharing formula with Sena key to Fadnavis’ state poll plan | Analysis

Despite the oft reiterated assurance from the top leaders of both the parties, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, that their alliance was definite, the seat-sharing formula between the BJP-Sena has remained elusive.

india Updated: Sep 17, 2019 16:53 IST
Ketaki Ghoge
Ketaki Ghoge
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray.
Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray.(HT Photo)
         

Will they, won’t they? The big question ahead of the assembly elections in Maharashtra is whether the saffron allies – the Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena – will fight the polls together. In a contest that appears one-sided given the mass defections in the opposition parties, this is also the one issue that seems to be adding colour to the otherwise plain vanilla elections.

Despite the oft reiterated assurance from the top leaders of both the parties – Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray – that their alliance was definite, the seat-sharing formula between the BJP-Sena has remained elusive. The tussle for seats and indirectly the big brother’s position within the alliance is being tacitly played out in the media, with various different seat-sharing formulas being thrown around by ‘sources’ from both the sides.

But, leaders on both sides admit that only Fadnavis, Thackeray and BJP president Amit Shah know what’s on the cards and these are unlikely to be revealed until Devendra Fadnavis and Uddhav Thackeray finalise a deal.

“Let anyone throw around any formula. Nothing is finalised yet. Only CM, Thackeray and Amit bhai know the exact terms or seat-sharing deal,” state water resources minister Girish Mahajan said.

What’s evident is that the BJP is unwilling to split an equal number of seats with the Sena as the party believes that it is within reach of a clear majority on its own strength, on the back of the overwhelming win in the Lok Sabha. Senior state leaders are ruing that the BJP will not just have to go with the Sena in an alliance but also give them an equal chance at the cost of their expansion.

“Giving an equal number of seats means giving them an equal chance at our cost. We won 122 seats last year, they won 63 seats. If we split seats 135:135, we can only increase our tally to at the most 130. They can increase their tally riding on our shoulders up to even 90. It’s time they conceded that the BJP is the big brother in the state and in the country,’’ said a senior BJP leader.

Despite this unease of handing over an advantage to its rival and ally, the top BJP leadership in the state and Centre is not willing to risk a clear win by contesting solo. That’s also because one of the main agendas in these polls for the BJP is to completely demoralise and degenerate the opposition in the state.

The Shiv Sena, which knows this well, has insisted at least publicly that it deserves what was promised to it ahead of the Lok Sabha polls - an equal number of seats. Thackeray’s statements on Monday, hardening the Sena’s stance over the construction of Metro car shed at Aarey as well as the Ram Mandir issue, is a means of sending a signal that his party is not malleable.

Fadnavis in this scenario will have to do the balancing act to get the Sena along and ensure BJP has a chance to reach as close to majority mark of 145 seats on its own in this contest. It remains to be seen on what terms he manages to convince Thackeray to contest less number of seats. The BJP is hoping that Sena contests at least 10 seats less, around 125; so that BJP can fight on 145 seats. The remaining 18 seats are to be left for five smaller allies. Fadnavis may also get some of the smaller allies to contest on the BJP symbol to increase his party’s share of seats.

Beyond the numbers, what needs more work is identifying how to split the remaining 103 seats (besides the ones won by the BJP-Sena last year, which they will retain) and how to accommodate opposition leaders taken by both the parties to secure bigger tally. The allies have poached as many as 30 plus opposition leaders ahead of the state polls and the Lok Sabha elections, including around 15 sitting legislators.

Both Thackeray and Fadnavis are holding these talks without keeping anyone in the loop. The alliance deal may be announced suddenly just like they did ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

First Published: Sep 17, 2019 16:52 IST

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