Ahead of formal seat-sharing talks for the Assembly polls due in October, BJP has indicated it may ask ally Shiv Sena to allow it to contest 16 more seats than it did last time.
In the 2009 polls, the Sena contested 169 seats while BJP fought 119. This time around, the BJP wants to contest 135 seats, leaving 153 for the Sena.
State BJP leaders said Friday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had conveyed to them that while every alliance partner in the NDA should be treated with respect, sentiments of die-hard party workers should not be compromised.
“The underlying message from the central and state leadership, which have already held discussions, is to begin the dialogue next week with the Shiv Sena on new terms,” said a senior BJP functionary from Delhi.
The BJP wants the Shiv Sena leadership to reconcile to the fact that the formula set in 1989 of BJP contesting 117 seats and Sena 171 is not acceptable any more.
According to sources, BJP also wants the Shiv Sena to set aside at least 17 seats from its quota for accommodating smaller alliance partners like Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, Republican Party of India and Rashtriya Samaj Party.
BJP sources said that even after this, the Sena would get to contest more seats, keeping its status of being the leading alliance partner intact.
A senior general secretary, who is part of the BJP’s core committee, said, “The message is very clear. If seat-sharing takes place on our terms, the alliance will stay. Otherwise, we are prepared to contest all the 288 seats alone.”
Sources said the BJP’s new assertiveness could also be because of the growing demand within the NCP to break its alliance with the Congress. The BJP believes a four-cornered contest will put it in a better position compared to the Congress, Shiv Sena and the NCP.
An analysis of all 288 seats in the state, discussed at the state BJP meeting, suggests there are at least 58 Assembly seats out of the Sena’s 171 which it has never won since its formation in 1966.
The seat-sharing negotiations are expected next week. But before formal talks, BJP’s central and state leaders are evolving their own strategy, which is being conveyed to the Sena through mediators.
The formula of seat-sharing between the Sena and the BJP was first worked out in 1989 by late Sena chief Bal Thackeray and late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan. It was decided then that while the BJP would contest more Lok Sabha seats in the state, the Sena would get a larger share of Assembly seats.