The Bharatiya Janata Party has found itself in a catch-22 situation ahead of the Assembly elections in Maharashtra. While its top leadership is under pressure to adhere to the 50-50 seat-sharing pact with ally Shiv Sena, the party’s cadre seems upset as it will amount to shelving it’s own ambitious plan — ‘shat-pratishat Bhajapa’ (cent -per cent BJP).
In 2009, the BJP had announced that it will form its own government in the state with majority seats.
“Since the commitment to the 50-50 seat-sharing formula for the Assembly polls was made by the top leadership, it is unlikely that they will go back on their word now,” a top source in the BJP said, referring to BJP president Amit Shah and Sena president Uddhav Thackeray commitment to an ‘equal power-sharing pact’.
The Maharashtra Assembly has a total of 288 seats. To stake claim for formation of government will require a party to secure at least 145 seats – the halfway mark.
As per the seat-sharing formula, the BJP will contest on 135 seats and its ally Sena on 135. The remaining 18 seats would be given to smaller allies, such as Republican Party of India (A) and Rashtriya Samaj Party.
In the 2014 Assembly polls, which the Sena and the BJP had contested separately, the BJP had won 122 seats and the Sena 63 seats, while Congress bagged 42 seats and the NCP got 41 seats. Smaller parties and Independents together had bagged 20 seats that year.
A senior BJP party functionary said, “The BJP already has 122 sitting MLAs. Yet, if we have to contest on 135 seats, it means we can get only 13 seats more. Whereas, in the case of Sena, which has 63 MLAs, contesting on 135 seats would amount to a potential jump of 72 seats. Overall, the Sena could gain 114 per cent when it comes to expanding its electoral base, as compared to the BJP’s 10 per cent.”
Almost three decades ago when Sena chief late Bal Thackeray and BJP leader late Pramod Mahajan had struck a saffron pact, the formula for sharing the 48 Lok Sabha seats was 28 seats for BJP and 20 for Sena. For the 288 Assembly seats, it was 171 seats for the Sena and 117 for the BJP. However, the numbers kept changing in successive polls, with both parties reopening negotiations over seat sharing. The initial concept was BJP leads at Centre and the Sena in Maharashtra.
Since the 2019 Lok Sabha election results, which saw the BJP bag a majority on its own at the Centre, its leaders have been going all out to reassure the Sena about their pre-poll alliance. At a core-committee meeting in Delhi this week, Shah categorically told party leaders that BJP will have alliance with Sena and other smaller parties for Assembly polls. He also directed every minister and elected member to ensure that the party cadre worked in partnership with Sena and ensure not only the BJP candidates, but also Sena candidates get elected.
While reassuring the Sena about the pre-poll alliance for Assembly polls, Fadnavis recently had said: “Uddhavji is my big brother. And PM Narendra Modiji is Uddhavji’s big brother.”
Focus on the seat-sharing pact between the allies had renewed last week when Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said, “ The BJP and Sena will return to power with majority in the state. We are confident the next Chief Minister will also be from BJP.”
In a quick retort, Sena ministers said: “During the Lok Sabha polls, it was decided the Sena-BJP will have equal share in seats and power. This includes Chief minister’s post. It means the BJP and Sena will share the chief ministership over the two halves of the term.”
Highly placed sources, who were a part of the Shah-Thackeray meet, revealed, “While seats and equal share in power was promised and pronounced by Fadnavis, there was no discussion nor any commitment on the coveted post of CM.”
A senior BJP leader said, “The 2019 Assembly polls will be lead by Fadnavis. If the alliance is voted to power, Fadnavis will be the Chief Minister. There is possibility of Aaditya Thackeray taking the role of deputy CM.”