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Shiv Sena may contest for 150 seats in Bihar elections

The Uddhav Thackeray-led party’s campaign will be based on Hindutva and development, both part of the BJP’s strategy to woo voters.

mumbai Updated: Sep 14, 2015 00:35 IST
Kunal Purohit
Kunal Purohit
Hindustan Times
Shiv Sena,BJP,Bihar elections

In a bid to embarrass its ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Shiv Sena has decided to go alone in the upcoming Bihar Assembly polls and may contest nearly 150 seats – five times more than the previous election.

According to sources, the Uddhav Thackeray-led party’s campaign will be based on Hindutva and development, both part of the BJP’s strategy to woo voters. The saffron parties have had an uneasy relationship, after their split before the Maharashtra Assembly elections and the delay in joining the state government led by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. The stint in Bihar is being viewed as a bid to corner the BJP, as the latter will now be forced to stick to its Hindutva agenda.

“There was always an understanding with the BJP that the desh [country] is theirs, while the pradesh [state] is ours. As it is no longer the case, we are looking at 150 seats and have told the party leadership that our organisation is robust enough to contest,” said Vinay Shukla, party coordinator for Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

The party’s social media team has already started working on a plan with ‘BJP-mukt Bihar’ as its focus, leaving little doubt about the tone the campaign is likely to adopt.

While the Sena may not have won any seat in Bihar so far, a study of its performance reveals its vote share has been increasing. From bagging 23,000-odd votes and 0.1% vote share in the 2004 general elections, the Sena won nearly 1.5 lakh votes and 0.4% of the vote share in the 2014 general elections. What made it commendable was the Sena had polled the votes, despite contesting against the BJP in the middle of a Modi wave. In fact, in the Munger parliamentary seat, the party’s candidate polled more than 50,000 votes and stood fourth. The Sena candidates stood fourth in four of the 7 seats.

For the Bihar elections, the party’s poll preparations are being supervised by Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s aide and Rajya Sabha MP Anil Desai. “I will go to Bihar on September 19 and review the party machinery. We are looking at contesting more than 100 seats, depending on the wishes of the cadre and our resources. We have been putting up a good show in Bihar, despite not having a full-fledged party base there,” he said.

Meanwhile, sources said the party plans to depute at least 5-6 of its MPs in Bihar to take charge of the campaign. Desai said neither will the party’s campaign back incumbent chief minister Nitish Kumar, nor will it target the BJP. “We will stick to our agenda of Hindutva going hand-in-hand with development,” he said.

First Published: Sep 14, 2015 00:23 IST