BJP, Sena decide to fight polls together

Last Updated 23 September 2014, 20:35 IST

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena resolved their differences over seat sharing on Tuesday and decided to contest the October 15 Maharashtra Assembly elections together, mounting pressure on the ruling alliance of the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to remain united.

The Sena-BJP alliance was salvaged from the brink of collapse after the warring partners took a step back from their rigid positions on seat sharing following directions from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to his party’s interlocutors.

Sena president Uddhav Thackeray withdrew his claim for the chief minister’s post, which was a sticking point in the week-long stand-off. The BJP had staked claim for 135 seats but pared its demand by five seats on Monday. Maharashtra has a 288-member Assembly.

The breakthrough for the saffron alliance came at a meeting of senior leaders in Mumbai on Tuesday morning. It is learnt that the Shiv Sena will contest 151 seats and the BJP 130 seats while the remaining seven seats have been distributed among four smaller alliance partners. A formal announcement is expected on Wednesday. 

Sena and BJP leaders met again on Tuesday night for last-minute negotiations. The alliance now hopes to snatch power from the Congress-NCP combine which has been ruling Maharashtra for the past 15 years.

A similar consensus proved elusive for the Congress-NCP alliance. Senior leaders, including Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and NCP vice-president Praful Patel, held consultations in Mumbai and later expressed their interest in keeping the alliance intact.

The NCP has demanded an equal share from the Congress by staking claim to 144 seats, a concession that the Congress is not ready to make.

A meeting of the Congress and NCP leaders was expected on Tuesday night but was put off as many leaders of Sharad Pawar’s outfit were away in Malegaon, about 300 km from Mumbai, for a party rally.
“I don’t think there is a need to meet. We can speak over phone,” a senior Congress interlocutor said

Congress and NCP sources said they have finalised candidates for all the 288 seats in case the alliance falls apart.

Meanwhile, Congress sources said the list of party candidates for Maharashtra and Haryana would be declared on Wednesday, when “pitra paksha”, an inauspicious period for Hindus, comes to an end. The filing of nominations for the elections opened on September 20 and the last date for submitting poll papers is Saturday.

Meanwhile, smaller parties in the Shiv Sena-BJP grand alliance (Mahayuti) on Tuesday night expressed their displeasure over the seat sharing arrangement.

At a meeting of the grand alliance in Mumbai, leaders of the four smaller parties – RPI (A), Swabhimani Paksha, Shiv Sangram and Rashtriya Samaj Paksha – are learnt to have threatened to walk out of the alliance if they are not given an “honourable share”. Various offers were made to them to resolve the stand-off.

(Published 23 September 2014, 20:35 IST)

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