AHEAD OF 2019, the top BJP leadership seems to be on the lookout to mend fences with alliance partner Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. From party national president Amit Shah to Union minister Nitin Gadkari, the BJP has in the recent past expressed optimism that BJP and the Sena would enter into pre-poll alliances for the Lok Sabha and Maharashtra elections next year.
Earlier this week, while Shah had said New Delhi that BJP is keen on having an alliance with the Sena for the polls, Gadkari said on Monday maintained that though the two parties have a lot of differences, they can’t do without each other. “The Shiv Sena is among the oldest alliance partner of the BJP in the NDA. The BJP would like to have an alliance with the Sena (in the upcoming elections),” Gadkari said while addressing mediaperspons in Mumbai.
In January, Sena had announced that it would contest the 2019 elections alone. While Lok Sabha elections for 48 seats in Maharashtra are scheduled in April-May 2019, the state polls are likely to be held on 288 seats in October-November next year. Quoting a Marathi proverb “Tujha majha zame na, tujha vachun karme na (we have lot of differences, but still can’t live without each other)”, he added that the situation was similar in this case. Asked if he would mediate between the two parties ahead of the polls next year, Gadkari said Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and state BJP chief Raosaheb Danve would handle matters related to the state.
When contacted, state BJP minister for PWD and Revenue, Chandrakant Patil, said: “If Sena refused to continue its alliance with the BJP, it could be a cakewalk for the Congress-NCP combine.” The comment assumes significance as Congress president Rahul Gandhi and NCP chief Sharad Pawar have already conveyed that their parties would go for pre-poll alliance to consolidate their secular vote bank.
AICC general secretary in charge of Maharashtra, Mohan Prakash, said: “It is our endeavour to unite like-minded parties to avoid division of votes, which works to BJP’s advantage.” NCP state chief Jayant Patil echoed similar sentiments. “The Congress-NCP alliance will work against BJP and Sena.”
Meanwhile, sources in the Sena said the decision to contest Lok Sabha and Assembly polls alone is not yet final. A senior functionary said, “Frankly speaking, nothing is final yet. A section believes if we have to come to power in the state and the Centre, pre-poll alliance with BJP is a reality. After all, a triangular fight between Congress-NCP, BJP and Sena would be detrimental for the organisation.”
“Often in politics, you have to strike a hard bargain to push your agenda. Our hard talk is also part of the strategy to ensure that BJP treats us at par when we go for pre-poll talks,” a Sena leader said. Sources said the final decision on alliance will be worked out by the CM and Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.
With realignment of regional forces in Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka, BJP is no longer speaking about contesting alone — a major shift compared to its stand three years ago. “Even in 2014, when the Modi wave was evident, the party fought the polls under the umbrella of grand alliance where BJP, Sena, Rashtriya Samaj Party, Swabhiman Shetkari Sanghatana and Republican Party of India were united,” a BJP insider said.
In 2014, while BJP had won 23 Lok Sabha seats, Sena had won 18, Congress 2, NCP 4 and Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana 1. In the state polls, while BJP had bagged 122 seats, Sena had won 63, Congress 42, NCP 41 and others 20.