After criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the past three years, the Shiv Sena that had said it would go solo, seems to be slowly cosying up to the BJP and is even ready to cede ground on the seat-sharing front. On the other hand, the Congress and the NCP, that have been firming up their alliance for months now, still have some disagreements, especially over bringing MNS on board.
The Shiv Sena, which has been insisting that it is the “big brother” and shall remain so in the state, has reportedly agreed to contest 23 Lok Sabha seats, while the BJP will get to contest 25. Both parties have agreed to a 50-50 formula for the Assembly elections with each of them contesting 144 seats, sources said.
Asked about the development, BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari, however, said: “I will neither confirm nor deny whether the talks are underway…” BJP chief Amit Shah is likely to meet Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray this week at his residence, sources said.
While Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had said in Baramati that they would win 43 seats, a survey conducted by BJP this month has revealed that if the alliance stands, both parties will win 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state, compared to 42 that they had won last time.
Bhandari said such surveys are part of the process and there was nothing new in them.
Sena leaders, including Uddhav Thackeray, have been avoiding direct questions related to the alliance.
On Friday when Uddhav Thackeray met reporters, he kept mum on the BJP-Sena alliance issue. “The issues of alliances and elections will be there. But Pakistan must not be allowed to go scot-free…,” he said referring to the Pulwama attacks.
On the other hand, the BJP has reiterated time and again that it wanted an alliance with the Sena. Even three days ago, Fadnavis met Uddhav Thackeray at his Bandra residence, Matoshree. He said the talks were positive.
Bhandari said: “We have been saying that we want an alliance with the Sena…”
A BJP leader said: “While the Sena has been saying things, we have never said anything. It is the Sena, which will have to answers questions related to its spewing venom…”
Meanwhile, the Congress and the NCP, who had been holding “healthy” negotiations over seat-sharing, seem to have developed sudden fissures over taking MNS on board.
“Our ideologies differ… we cannot take the MNS along,” said Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant. Hinting that an announcement is on the cards, NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said there were different ways to accommodate MNS.
Another NCP leader said they might accommodate MNS within the seats that they have been allotted. “We will accommodate them in our 24 seats. Likewise, Congress can accommodate Prakash Ambedkar’s party in their 24 seats. This way, the Congress will not have to align with MNS…,” said an MNS leader.
However, Congress leaders said the issue has caused bitterness between the two parties. “It will have to be resolved first,” said a Congress leader.
The Congress-led front has already suffered a blow with Prakash Ambedkar announcing the names of candidates of Bahujan Vikas Aghadi from various Lok Sabha seats in the state.
Another alliance partner, the Raju Shetti-led Swabhimani Paksha, is also unhappy, as it has not been allotted the number of seats it had sought.