Negotiations between the BJP and the Shiv Sena for settling the terms and conditions for continuing an alliance began last night as Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis called on Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray at Matoshri.
The meeting lasted one hour. The Chief Minister was accompanied by his two BJP colleagues, Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil and Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan. Patil is known for his proximity to BJP president Amit Shah.
Sources disclosed that the talks got underway after the BJP president told Uddhav over the phone that they had to go to the polls as allies. Shah, sources said, also informed him that he had issued instructions to Fadnavis for the purpose. They said Shah and Uddhav would announce the deal at a joint press conference after the two sides reached an understanding. Shah had apparently assigned the task of holding discussions to the Chief Minister because he did not wish to be seen trying and failing to win back the Sena. He would step in once a deal was informally sealed.
The Sena chief, according to sources, reiterated his demand that the saffron allies return to the 1995-formula for sharing Maharashtra Assembly seats. The Sena had in 1995 contested 169 of the 288 seats, while the BJP had fought 116. The two parties had secured a total of 138 seats — the Sena 73 and the BJP, 65 — and formed their first coalition government in the state.
“You rule over Delhi, we rule over Mumbai,” Uddhav reportedly told Fadnavis.
Asked about the response of Fadnavis to this proposition, the sources said, “He suggested that they share the chief ministership for two-and-a-half years each.” Uddhav, sources said, rejected the idea and insisted that the BJP had to concede the Maharashtra chief ministership to the Sena for the entire five-year-term. Obviously, Fadnavis was not enthused by the proposition.
The first round of discussions came barely a day after Sena member Anandrao Adsul had, in his valedictory speech in the Lok Sabha, made adulatory references to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and expressed the hope that “our NDA would form the next government also”.
Adsul’s words were reflective of the current mood in the Sena, but clearly, it was the BJP which had to take the call. The reason being that it was the big brother, which is under pressure to make a sacrifice this time.