Will national parties sacrifice for their regional allies in Maharashtra?
During his last visit to the city, BJP chief Amit Shah told the media that his party would like to forge an alliance with Shiv SenaUpdated: Dec 29, 2018, 00:35 IST
Following the decision of the BJP to give up its claim on five Lok Sabha seats it won in 2014 for its ally Janata Dal (U) in Bihar, will there be similar flexibility shown in case of Shiv Sena in Maharashtra?
Taking a cue from its defeat in three states it ruled, the BJP has started soothing ruffled feathers in its NDA. On Sunday, it finalised the deal with Nitish Kumar’s JD (U) and Ramvilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party. It decided to contest 17 seats though it had won 22 Lok Sabha seats in the state in 2014. This is also an indication to other unhappy allies in the NDA including the Shiv Sena. During his last visit to the city, BJP chief Amit Shah told the media that his party would like to forge an alliance with Shiv Sena.
Does that mean, a pre-poll alliance for Lok Sabha is on the cards and a Bihar-like announcement is expected in Mumbai soon?
Addressing his party’s rally at Pandharpur on Monday, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray did not give a clear indication on an alliance with the BJP, though he was cautious about it. While he slammed the Modi government for various issues including the Rafale controversy, Thackeray chose his words carefully when he spoke about the alliance. “It will happen if the people want…,” he said. He also made it a point to mention BJP’s deal with Nitish Kumar and reminded the ally that Kumar and Paswan have not been in favour of Ram temple. Some BJP leaders have taken the remarks as a positive sign.
Even if the Sena is willing for a pre-poll tie-up, forging such an alliance will be a tedious task for the BJP. Following the results of the Assembly polls in five states, the Sena’s bargaining power has increased. Sharing Lok Sabha seats may not be a problem since the two parties had contested 2014 LS polls in an alliance. The tougher part will be working out seat-sharing for the Assembly elections. It was on this issue that the two parties had parted ways in 2014.
According to insiders, Thackeray is likely to insist on working out a seat-sharing and even power-sharing formula for the Assembly elections along with that of the LS. Will the BJP choose to be flexible with the Sena too? It remains to be seen.
While the Sena is giving the BJP a hard time, Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is relatively causing less of a headache to the Congress. The Congress versus NCP tussle was commonplace during the rule of the two parties in the state between 1999 and 2014. They broke the alliance over the issue of seat-sharing just before the 2014 Assembly polls and NCP walked out of the UPA. However, the past few months have shown Pawar getting comfortable with the Congress top brass again. In Congress-NCP circles, there is talk that Pawar is sitting with top leaders from both parties and looking at the possibility of winning maximum LS seats from the state. Of course, there are murmurs of protest in Congress as the NCP is eyeing a couple of LS seats held by the former. There are also apprehensions that the NCP may ditch the Congress at the 11th hour. Still, senior Congress leaders insist that they have no option but to put up with Pawar’s party. In fact, that is the feeling in both national parties.
With the general elections a few months away, it is clear that both the BJP and the Congress will have to take their regional allies in Maharashtra on board if they want to make a serious bid for 48 seats in the state. That may include a little bit of sacrifice.