The BJP has begun the process of seat-sharing talks with the Shiv Sena for the 288 Assembly seats in Maharashtra. While the Shiv Sena is pushing for 50:50 seat-sharing formula, the BJP is likely to angle for higher number of seats, sources said.
At the end of the preliminary round of talks, both the BJP and Shiv Sena have agreed to set aside 18 seats for the smaller parties, namely Republican Party of India (A), Rashtriya Samaj Party and Swabhimani Paksha. Which means, the Shiv Sena and BJP will have to decide the seat-sharing from 270 seats.
State BJP president Chandrakant Patil, Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar and Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan represented the BJP at the first meeting. From the Shiv Sena, Industries Minister Subash Desai and senior party leader Anil Desai were present.
Officially, the Shiv Sena is keen on a 50:50 seat-sharing formula. Which means, out of the 270 seats, it wants to contest in 135. However, BJP leaders indicated that the party wants a higher seat share considering its electoral growth in the state in the last five years.
“The BJP has indicated it will contest in 160 seats. The Shiv Sena will have to confine itself to 110 seats,” a source said.
“At this moment, surveys show the BJP can win 160 seats on its own,” Mahajan said. However, he refused to discuss the seat-sharing process, saying that a formal decision would be taken after considering all aspects. Mungantiwar exuded confidence about both parties resolving the seat-sharing formula amicably.
“There is no ambiguity about the pre-poll alliance with the Shiv Sena for the Assembly elections. But a section within the BJP believes it should place facts before the Shiv Sena. It would be unfair if the BJP has to settle down for lesser share than its electoral merit,” a BJP source said.
The BJP’s argument for higher seats is the 2014 Assembly election results. A senior leader, who is part of the seat-sharing talks, said, “The political scenario has changed. In the 2014 Assembly polls, the BJP won 122 seats and Shiv Sena 63 seats. The second lead tally showed the BJP ahead in 38 seats and Shiv Sena in 37 seats, making the BJP number one at 160 seats and Shiv Sena at 100 seats.”
There are 28 seats where neither the Shiv Sena nor the BJP is in number one or number two position. Thus if these are equally divided between the two parties the formula that emerges is, BJP 174 seats and Shiv Sena 114 seats.
A senior Shiv Sena cabinet minister said, “Party president Uddhav Thackeray has given consent for pre-poll alliance. But the party would ensure the seat-sharing is on equal terms.”
Earlier, addressing a public rally at Solapur, BJP president Amit Shah had declared, “The Shiv Sena and BJP pre-poll alliance will continue in Assembly polls. And Devendra Fadnavis would get the second term as Chief Minister of Maharashtra.”
In 2014, Sena and BJP parted ways, following differences over seat-sharing. In Lok Sabha elections, both parties agreed for pre-poll alliance on the condition that it would remain intact in Assembly elections.