Setting aside their differences, the BJP and Shiv Sena on Monday announced a seat-sharing pact for the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Maharashtra. While the BJP and Sena will contest 25 and 23 seats respectively in the Lok Sabha polls, the two parties said they would contest an equal number of seats in the Assembly elections due this year.
The pre-poll alliance was formalised after BJP chief Amit Shah, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray met at Matoshree in Mumbai. They said they had set aside their differences keeping in mind the Pulwama terror attack, their common Hindutva ideology and “national interest”.
Fadnavis announced the seat-sharing deal for the LS polls, where the BJP has given an additional seat to Sena, taking its tally up to 23 seats of the state’s 48 seats. In 2014, the seat-sharing formula was: Shiv Sena (22), BJP (24), Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (1) and Rashtriya Swabhimani Paksha (1).
On Assembly polls to 288 seats in the state, Fadnavis said: “After setting aside a few seats for the smaller allies, BJP and Shiv Sena will share the remaining seats equally 50:50.”
Sources said there was some give and take on both sides, which helped take the pre-poll alliance forward. Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray said, “The Shiv Sena’s decision to agree to the pre-poll alliance was made keeping in mind the challenges confronting the nation in the wake of the terror strike at Pulwama. Secondly, BJP and Sena unity was necessary to keep the Congress-NCP alliance out. Our alliance also is an outcome to honour the sentiments of the people in Maharashtra and the country.”
Negotiators in both parties said that while the BJP gave the Sena no commitment on whether it could choose the Chief Minister, it agreed to create a Deputy Chief Minister post to accommodate the Sena. All key portfolios will be equally divided between the Sena and BJP too. The Sena also succeeded in convincing the BJP to relocate Asia’s largest oil refinery at Nanar in Ratnagiri. Other demands included expanding the scope of the farm loan waiver.
Expressing his gratitude to Thackeray for burying their differences in national interest, Shah said: “The BJP-Sena alliance is dil se. There were some misunderstandings and concerns which we have mutually worked out keeping national interest in mind…Shiv Sena and Akali Dal are amongst our oldest alliance partners who have always stood with BJP in both good and bad times. We value their association.”
Referring to the Shiv Sena’s frequent attacks on the BJP these last few years, Thackeray said, “ I know that people will ridicule me for the pre-poll alliance after being critical of the BJP government. But our criticism is for the good of the people…elections come and go.”
On Twitter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the BJP’s association with the Shiv Sena goes beyond politics. “The decision to contest together strengthens the NDA significantly. Inspired by the vision of Atal Ji and Balasaheb Thackeray Ji, BJP-Shiv Sena alliance will continue working for the well-being of Maharashtra,” he said.
According to Fadnavis, the alliance will culminate in a joint campaign across Maharashtra starting with 151 drought-hit talukas across the state.