NCP chief Sharad Pawar met Shiv Sena working president Uddhav Thackeray at the former’s residence in New Delhi on Tuesday evening,setting off speculation that the two parties may join hands before the general election.
The BJP sought to put up a brave face with party spokesman Prakash Javadekar insisting on Wednesday that the party’s alliance with the Sena was intact. Sources in the Sena said that discussions have been inconclusive and things could swing either way.
However,the NCP has to contend with dissent in its ranks in case it aligns with Sena. Factoring this possibility,Pawar is reportedly engaged in widespread consultations with party leaders to gauge their response to a tie-up with the Sena.
Sources in the BJP argued that both the NCP and the Sena are currently hobnobbing with each other to build pressure on their respective allies to increase their share of seats or get seats of their choice following the delimitation of constituencies.
As far as the BJP and the Sena are concerned,their relationship is far from being comfortable. BJP general secretary Gopinath Munde and Maharashtra BJP president Nitin Gadkari are unable to do business with Uddhav — Munde does not have a clear mandate and Gadkari does not evoke confidence in the other camp. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi,new state in-charge,has not yet established contact with the Sena leadership. Coupled with this is the crisis of faith created by the BJP demand for the Chimur Assembly seat,falling in the Sena quota,when Uddhav was faced with a serious crisis.
At least four Lok Sabha seats have become contentious between the saffron partners — Mumbai South-Central,Kalyan,Washim-Yavatmal and Jalna. The Sena claim on Mumbai South-Central rests on the fact that it includes traditional party strongholds like Lalbagh and Parel. The BJP wants it because Mumbai South had repeatedly elected Jaywanti Mehta. Kalyan includes the areas which were once part of Thane,a Sena stronghold. The two parties have conflicting claims over Washim-Yavatmal constituency.
The BJP has a larger pie in the Lok Sabha seats,26 compared to 22 of the Sena. The arrangement is reversed in the Vidhan Sabha and the Sena fights 171 seats,compared to 117 of the BJP. Should the party finally decide to stay in the NDA,the Sena may ask for one or two more Lok Sabha seats.