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Monday, Sep 16, 2019

Shiv Sena, BJP poll tie-up hinges on power-sharing in Maharashtra

Senior leaders from both parties told Hindustan Times the process was taking time over delay in finalising an agreement to share seats for the Assembly elections and sharing power if the saffron combine wins

mumbai Updated: Feb 14, 2019 08:28 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad
Shailesh Gaikwad
Hindustan Times
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray (Kunal Patil/HT Photo)

Publicly, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena may be engaged in a power tussle in Maharashtra, but top leaders of both parties have been trying to work out an alliance deal for the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.

Senior leaders from both parties told Hindustan Times that the process was taking time largely over a delay in finalising an agreement to share seats for the Assembly elections — scheduled six months after the Parliamentary polls — and sharing power if the saffron combine wins. The senior leaders, who did not want to be named, said the top leadership of the Sena and BJP have accepted the need to fight the elections together and are hopeful a pact will be finalised by the end of the month.

The decisions are expected to be taken at the top level — over the past few days, BJP chief Amit Shah, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis have been in touch regularly.

Union minister Prakash Javdekar, senior Sena leader Subhash Desai and Sena’s youth wing chief Aaditya Thackeray are involved in the process too.

State revenue minister Chandrakant Patil (from the BJP), health minister Eknath Shinde (from the Sena) and Sena party secretary Milind Narvekar are facilitating the communication.

For the Lok Sabha elections, the parties are either considering their 2014 arrangement, in which the BJP fought 26 seats, and the Sena, 22; or a formula under which the BJP will contest 25 seats and the Sena 23.

The Sena is keen on the Palghar constituency, which is currently held by the BJP. The seat-sharing deal for the Lok Sabha polls depends on the arrangement the parties reach for the Assembly elections. For the Assembly polls, different formulae are being discussed, but the parties may ultimately agree to contest 144 seats each, said a senior BJP leader involved in the process.

Maharashtra has 288 Assembly seats. While the Sena wants its share of seats entirely, the BJP will have to share some of its seats with its minor allies — Ramdas Athawale-led Republican Party of India (A), Rashtriya Samaj Paksh and Shiv Sangram. In 2014, the BJP won 122 Assembly seats and the Sena, 63.

HT also learned that both sides are not only discussing seat-sharing, but also a power-sharing formula if the alliance retains power in the state. The Sena wants this formula to be worked out while finalising its alliance with the BJP for Lok Sabha polls.

“Three options are being discussed. The first is sharing the chief ministership over the five-year tenure — two-and-a-half years each; the second is giving the chief minister’s post to the party that has most winning MLAs; the third option is to keep the chief ministership with one party, but in return assigning key portfolios such as home and urban development department to the other party,”said a key functionary from the Sena.

The third formula is based on a similar arrangement the Congress and NCP had come to after the Assembly elections in 2004, when NCP chief Sharad Pawar offered to concede the chief minister’s post to the Congress in exchange for key departments, even though his party had more MLAs.

“If both sides agree to any one of the three options, there won’t be any problem in finalising the poll pact,” said the Sena functionary quoted earlier. The Sena has also spoken about simultaneous polls during the talks, but it is not forcefully demanding it for now. “The Sena leadership is in two minds over simultaneous polls, but Fadnavis is strongly against it,” said a BJP minister.

“His contention is the parties should concentrate on winning the most number of seats from Maharashtra, considering the changes in the Hindi belt that was swept by the party in 2014,” the minister said. Shah is likely to visit Thackeray at his residence in the coming days, and if the parties reach an alliance deal, Shah will invite Thackeray, on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to Delhi.

During Thackeray’s visit, he will meet Modi and likely formally announce the alliance along with him, the minister said.

It is also likely that Modi may visit Matoshree, the residence of Thackerays, during his next Mumbai visit. The efforts to finalise an alliance has been on for quite a while now.

Thackeray even met PM Modi and Shah informally during a visit to Delhi after the death of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. However, the alliance talks did not take off then owing to several reasons. Meanwhile, even as the Sena sharpened its attack on the BJP in the state, the top leadership from both sides remained in touch. The BJP stepped up its efforts to get Sena on board after the results of the Assembly elections in three other states recently.

While Thackeray has remained aggressive against the BJP, he knows a resurgent Congress would not be good news for the Sena in Maharashtra. “We have pointed out to the Sena leadership that retaining power in Maharashtra will be difficult for the BJP-Sena if the NDA loses power at the Centre. In the calculations for the Lok Sabha, Maharashtra’s 48 seats are significant for us,”a top BJP leader told Hindustan Times.

First Published: Feb 14, 2019 00:27 IST