Confident BJP, wary Shiv Sena in battle for dominance in Maharashtra alliance

Written by Shubhangi Khapre | Mumbai | Updated: Sep 16 2014, 18:50pm hrs
The battle within the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance is an old trend now taken to new heights, with each partner asserting its claim to the chief ministers chair and looking at a seat share the other hasnt agreed on. Maharashtras 288 seats go to polls on October 15.

Dealing with a BJP more confident than ever, the Shiv Sena has been more explicit about the next chief minister, having projected Uddhav Thackeray as the candidate. The party is looking at recapturing the space it had lost to the MNS in 2009, when the latter won 13 seats and damaged the Sena in a dozen others.

The BJP hasnt announced a CM candidate yet but indicated that the elections will be held under the leadership of state party president Devendra Fadnavis.

Again, the Sena has demanded 150 seats and the BJP 135, which works out to 285 out of 288, but that would not account for the 18 seats or so that have to be left for the smaller allies. The BJP is making a reasonable demand when it says we will contest 135 out of 288 seats. The demand for an equal number of seats is on electoral merit, says Fadnavis, referring to the last assembly and Lok Sabha poll trends.

The Senas unyielding pitch for the CMs chair is its means to send a message across to its cadre that the late Bal Thackeray still rules in Maharashtra, not Prime Minister Narendra Modi. If Modi could set a target of 272 in the Lok Sabha elections, whats wrong if I have set one of 150 in the assembly polls says Uddhav, referring not to the seats to be contested but to those the party wants to win.

Sena MP Sanjay Raut adds, There cannot be any compromise on the chief ministers post. The Sena is entitled to it it was decided almost 25 years ago that the BJP would have the upper hand in Delhi and the Sena in Maharashtra.

The BJP is no less keen to show who the bigger partner is. Modi and BJP president Amit Shah are said to have conveyed to the state unit that they need to bargain hard with the Sena. Whatever the formula that emerges, each side is intent on ensuring it has the chief ministers chair. Shah has conveyed to the party that its single mission these elections is to ensure BJP is the largest party. Maharashtra is a very important state and the BJP cannot give up its claim to the leadership, he reportedly said at a party meeting.

The alliance has ruled Maharashtra only once, in 1995-99. In 2004, Sena and BJP leaders worked at cross purposes in several constituencies leading to the defeat of each others candidates. In 2009, the BJP contested 119 seats and won 47 while the Sena contested 169 and won 46. The BJP had the better strike rate, a party leader pointed out. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP won 23 of 24 seats and Sena 18 of 22 seats.

The Senas Raut dismisses these BJP justifications, saying: The Lok Sabha results cannot be the basis for determining assembly seat shares.