After deciding to contest more than half of the Assembly seats in Bihar, the Shiv Sena has already firmed up its plan to field its candidates in all the 403 seats of Uttar Pradesh, where Assembly elections are due in early 2017.
“We were a little late in the case of Bihar, but as far as UP is concerned, we have already started making preparations. We have deputed 100 party leaders to Lucknow and other areas of the state to put the party units in place and begin the process of shortlisting candidates,” said Sena parliamentary party leader Sanjay Raut.
To begin with, the Sena has decided to contest two upcoming Assembly bypolls in the state — Muzaffarnagar and Bikapur (in Faizabad district).
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Though the SP and BSP have been the principal players in UP politics for quite some time, the BJP drastically changed the scene last year by winning 73 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats. Since the 18 per cent Muslim vote is crucial for BJP rivals — SP, BSP and Congress — AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi has the potential of upsetting their calculations by entering the poll arena, as shown in the Maharashtra Assembly elections last year. In such a situation, the entry of Sena, which is an ally of the BJP in Maharashtra, can perhaps neutralise the loss that anti-BJP forces may suffer.
The Sena, however, would be happier if the BJP reaches out to it and asks it to stay clear of UP. For the Sena, the real goal is the Mumbai civic elections, due in February 2017 around the same time as the UP Assembly elections.
At present, the Sena has only 75 members in the 227-member cash-rich Mumbai civic body. The BJP 31. In the last civic polls, the BJP had contested 69 seats and Sena 168.