Rattled by dissenting voices from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) camp, Bharatiya Janata Party has started wooing its allies. In a bid to keep Shiv Sena in its fold, the BJP is offering it an almost equal number of seats in the Assembly elections.
The BJP has offered Sena 140 seats out of the 288 seats in Maharashtra Assembly. Last month after the party conclave, Sena had announced that it would contest next year’s Lok Sabha and assembly elections on its own and would not have any kind of alliance with the BJP.
The Sena-BJP, who first came together in 1989, contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections jointly but both parties parted ways just before the Assembly elections held later that year. Each of them contested all 288 seats for the state Assembly. While BJP won 122 seats, Sena managed to win 63 seats.
Later, Sena joined the BJP-led government in the state. However, this tie-up came apart again during the 2017 Mumbai civic polls with each party contesting separately. The BJP fell just two seats short of the Sena’s tally in the BMC House.
BJP is facing resentment from its other NDA allies as well. Recently, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu expressed his displeasure over the alleged step-motherly treatment Andhra got in the Union Budget. Similarly, Akali Dal MP Naresh Gujaral also criticised the BJP over its ‘big brother’ attitude towards the allies.
According to sources in the BJP, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s trusted lieutenant, Anil Desai, met BJP president Amit Shah on Friday. During their meeting, Shah told Desai that Sena should review its decision to contest the elections on its own. Shah also offered Sena to contest the Assembly elections in alliance and promised to give a substantial number of seats to it.
A senior BJP leader from the state said Shah also cautioned Desai that if Sena contests elections Lok Sabha elections on its own, its numbers will reduce drastically from the present 18 to around five to six. He told Sena that it is in interest to remain in the NDA and contest elections in alliance with the BJP.
Maharashtra is the most important state in BJP’s scheme of things after Uttar Pradesh as during 2014 elections NDA won 42 seats out of the total 48 in the state.
Political observers said that though Sena was not withdrawing from the Modi government or the BJP-led state government as of now, its stand, and especially Uddhav Thackeray’s call to defeat the Modi regime, was certain to worsen the ties between the two allies, which have been rocky since mid-2014, and raise doubts over Sena’s continued participation in the BJP-led NDA at the Centre.
However, a section of Sena leaders is still in favour of an alliance with the BJP.
Sena sources confirmed that a senior Sena MP met BJP leaders and discussed the possibility of an alliance.