A Sena leader from South Mumbai said the cadre is unsure of what is expected of them. “Nobody knows who is involved in the negotiations and what formula is being discussed. It has left the cadre confused ahead of the elections because we had already passed a resolution in the national executive (in January last year) that we would go solo,” he said.
On Tuesday, The Indian Express reported that BJP chief Amit Shah called up Uddhav Thackeray to finalise a seat-sharing agreement, during which the Sena chief sought a return to the 1995 formula to share Maharashtra Assembly seats with the BJP, when the Sena contested 169 of the 288 seats, while the BJP fought 116.
A Sena shakha pramukh from South Mumbai said the cadre would be upset if there was an alliance. “The BJP has humiliated us over the last four years… We have been criticising the BJP and have taken an extreme stand in some issues, including Rafale. It will be difficult to reconcile now,” he said.
The bitterness at the Sena being denied important porfolios in the state Cabinet and the post of deputy chief minister, and being given only one Union Cabinet berth, is still fresh.
Another Sena functionary said, “If the alliance happens, Sena ticket hopefuls in some seats may not work for the party if those seats are given to the BJP.”
Not every Sainik thinks the same, though.
An “imarat pramukh”, the designation for a local leader who is in charge of a lane or a few buildings, said people have been telling him that it is “better to have an alliance with the BJP. They tell us to forget our differences… and come together so that it benefits both parties”.
Most Sena MPs are in favour of an alliance since they are only too aware that their impressive performance in the last elections — 18 of the 22 seats the party contested with the BJP — was in large measure due to the alliance.
“If the Congress-NCP can come together despite having differences, then the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance can also happen on ideological lines. The critical statements made in the last few years should not be given much importance,” said a Sena leader, adding that if the Sena contests solo, it would divide the Hindu vote.
Another Sena MP said that all the party wanted was an “honourable” seat-sharing formula in order to sell the alliance to angry Sainiks on the ground.
Rajendra Raut, a Sena office bearer from Ghatkopar, said he had “only one condition” if the party decided to fight with the BJP.
“We have told the party president that if we are going for an alliance with the BJP, then Kirit Somaiya (BJP MP) should not get the ticket from Mumbai North East,” he said.
In 2016, Somaiya had alleged that the BMC was “in the grip of a mafia run by Bandra Saheb”, a reference to Uddhav Thackeray who lives in Bandra.
A Sena leader conceded that Sainiks were bitter about other BJP leaders too, before going on to say that there was only one factor that could make the cadre come around. “The crucial factor is whether the BJP will agree to have a Sena CM in Maharashtra. If that happens, the alliance can happen immediately.”