BJP climbs down on seat demand

Cong also tries to resolve rift with NCP

BJP climbs down on seat demand

After days of brinkmanship, the BJP on Monday appeared reconciled to play second fiddle to its alliance partner Shiv Sena for the upcoming Maharashtra state Assembly elections.

The party, which has been insisting on an equal share in the allotment of seats in the 288-member Assembly, has  made known its willingness to settle for less number of seats.

The developments in the BJP-Sena camp appear to have prompted the rival Congress-NCP alliance too to sort out their differences over seat sharing.

Congress and NCP leaders have agreed to sit down on Tuesday to resolve their differences.

Differences over seat sharing for the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly elections, scheduled for October 15, had brought the rival alliances to the brink.

However, a day after rejecting Sena president Uddhav Thackeray’s offer of 119 seats, the BJP made a fresh offer in which it demanded 130 seats, a climb down from the earlier 135.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen to save the alliance, which was crucial to stage a comeback in Maharashtra after 15 years. BJP president Amit Shah reached out to Thackeray with a “very liberal proposal”.

On Monday, the BJP and the Sena had denied that Shah made a phone call to Thackeray. In evening, BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy confirmed the call.

As backroom talks between the Sena and the BJP gathered steam, Congress leaders seemed to realise the importance of their alliance with the NCP. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said the party was ready to return 10 seats that the NCP had ceded to it in 2009. But, the NCP stuck to its demand of 144 seats.

“Positive decision is expected in tomorrow’s (Tuesday) meeting with the leaders of the Congress,” NCP vice-president Praful Patel said in Mumbai. Congress sources said it could further sweeten the deal for the NCP by adding a few more seats.

The NCP has been contending that it had contested 124 assembly seats in 2004 when it first struck a pre-poll alliance with the Congress. It was in 2009 that the Congress forced the NCP to cede more seats, citing its poor performance in the Lok Sabha elections.

“The situation has changed now,” Patel asserted, citing that the Congress managed to win only two of the 27 Lok Sabha seats it contested in Maharashtra. The NCP had won four of the 21. Besides, NCP leaders claim that they are better placed than the Congress when it comes to representing local bodies and district councils.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi chaired the meeting of the party’s central election committee to discuss candidates for all the 288 seats.

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