To placate its sulking ally ahead of the crucial general elections, the BJP may accommodate the concerns of Shiv Sena and allow it to play the role of a big brother in the Assembly polls, scheduled to be held in October, sources in the party said. The ruling party, however, will retain the upper hand in the Lok Sabha elections, they added.
“While we are unlikely to replicate the 1995 seat-sharing formula for the 288 seats (in Maharashtra Assembly), decision have been taken to treat them (the Shiv Sena) as equal partners or give at least one seat more to the Sena for the state Assembly polls,” a highly-placed source in the BJP told The Indian Express.
According to the source, the BJP has proposed to let the Sena contest on 145 of 288 seats, which means the BJP will be left with 143 seats in the Assembly.
However, in line with the 1995 formula, the BJP is likely to contest on 25 of the 48 Lok Sabha in Maharashtra.
Sources in both the parties have admitted that concerted attempts were being made to strike a middle path, agreeable to both the Sena and the BJP.
A senior BJP Cabinet minister, not wishing to be named, told The Indian Express, “In 1995, Bal Thackeray and Pramod Mahajan had evolved the seat-sharing formula for 288 Assembly and 48 Lok Sabha seats.” It was then mutually agreed that the BJP, being a national party, would contest on more seats in the Lok Sabha, while the Sena, whose stakes were higher in Maharashtra, would contest on more seats in the Assembly elections.
The 1995 seat-sharing formula saw the BJP contest on 26 (and Sena on 22) of the 48 Lok Sabha seats. Whereas, in the 288-member Assembly, Sena had contested on 171 seats, and BJP on 117. Over successive years, the BJP kept 119 seats for itself and gave the Sena 169 seats to contest on in the state polls.
“Our strategy for the Assembly polls,” a senior functionary in BJP said, “would be to focus on maximising our strike rate. Which means, even if we settle for 143 seats, we would target to win 130 to 135 seats, which is not impossible.”
“In past we tried this method in Bihar Assembly polls when we won 90 seats of the 100 seats that we contested on in alliance with the Janata Dal (United),” the party functionary said.
However, a section of leaders in the BJP cautioned that they were unlikely to entertain any “unreasonable” conditions from the Sena. They have dubbed \he BJP’s climb down in the Assembly as “pragmatic politics”. Referring to the 2014 Assembly polls, where the BJP had won 122 seats and lost 40 by a narrow margin, they said, the BJP should ideally contest on 162 and the Sena on 126 seats. But considering the pulls and pressures in the current political scenario, the BJP has decided to keep its ambitions aside and pave way for the Sena, they claimed. The Sena had won 63 seats that year.
Reiterating his confidence over stitching a pre-poll alliance with the Sena, state Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said, “We are confident of pre-poll alliance. We are in talks. When two political parties have to discuss the alliance, it is based on mutual give and take.
“Politics is always people driven. Both the parties realise their responsibilities. The alliance is to avoid vote division and also make Hindutva a common cause,” he said.
The Shiv Sena and BJP alliance for Lok Sabha had remained intact between 1989 and 2014. In 2014, the Sena had said it would contest all future polls alone.