The Uddhav Thackeray-led party later forged an alliance with the BJP but the ties have remained strained between the two after the BJP emerged as a dominant partner in the state.
The ruling BJP in Maharashtra Sunday set a target of winning more than 220 seats with its allies in the assembly elections, due later this year, at its state executive met here to chalk out poll strategy. Addressing the conclave, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis exuded confidence that he will get a second term in the office, a statement that may raise hackles of the BJP ally Shiv Sena, which has been eyeing the post.
Senior party leader and state Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar moved a resolution to win more than 220 seats. “Abki bar 220 par,” he said. Maharashtra BJP president and Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil said the party needs to further strengthen its booth management in all 288 assembly constituencies, irrespective of how the seat-sharing among the allies is worked out.
“We have to ensure victory of the BJP as well as the candidates of our allies so that we can form a strong and stable government”, he said and asserted that the alliance would win more than 220 seats in the assembly elections due in September-October.
In 2014, the BJP emerged as the single largest party, winning 122 seats in the 288-member House. The Sena, which had contested separately, won 63 seats. The Uddhav Thackeray-led party later forged an alliance with the BJP but the ties have remained strained between the two after the BJP emerged as a dominant partner in the state.
Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and Maharashtra Women and Children Development Minister Pankaja Munde skipped the one-day conclave. Munde was scheduled to move a political resolution along with Mungantiwar. Patil said Munde could not attend the meeting as she was travelling abroad for her son’s college admission, while Gadkari, who was scheduled to address the gathering, had another important meeting to attend.
Addressing the conclave earlier in the day, BJP national working president J P Nadda said the country has changed under the Narendra Modi-led government which has brought “good days” in the last five years. He highlighted the Modi government’s achievements in health sector, poverty elevation, infrastructure, agriculture and rural development.
Patil said, “Let’s leave the alliance talks and seat-sharing to Devendra Fadnavis and party chief Amit Shah. Let’s strengthen the BJP at the booth-level in the state. Even if our allies contest particular seats, our booth structure will ensure their victory. Let’s focus only on this”. He said his priority was towards “qualitative improvement” of the party cadre.
In his address, Mungantiwar dubbed the Congress as a “scam-tainted party which gave a lot of pain to ‘Bharat Mata’ (mother India)”. “The Congress and the NCP are like the sinking ‘Titanic’ ship. The Congress is a leaderless party. In Maharashtra, it has appointed one new president and five working presidents. This structure will not benefit the party at all,” he said.
Meanwhile, Fadnavis said he was the chief minister not only of the BJP but also of the Shiv Sena, RPI, RSP–all allies of the BJP. “People will decide who will be the next chief minister. You need not worry. Our work will speak for ourselves,” Fadnavis said, adding, “I have already declared in the House that I will return.”
In his speech, Patil dismissed criticism that leaders loyal to the BJP are suffering due to influx of turncoats from other parties. “Out of 122 MLAs (of the BJP), only 25-30 are those who had joined the party on the eve of elections in 2014. In the Cabinet too, barring one or two, all ministers are those who have been in the BJP for several years. “I don’t think the loyalists are facing any injustice due to newcomers joining the party. BJP leaders and workers need not fear newcomers,” he said.
Patil also rejected the charge that the BJP won the Lok Sabha elections this year due to EVMs and Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Agadhi splitting the non-BJP votes.