Seat-sharing talks stretch for long in Maharashtra

Last Updated 20 September 2019, 06:02 IST

Two diametrically opposite alliances are dominating Maharashtra's political scenario for the last two decades but seat-sharing involves war-of-words and sometimes unending suspense. The 288-member Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, goes to polls in October.

The Congress and NCP have decided to contest 125 seats each and leave 38 for allies - but BJP-Sena alliance is yet to formalise. The BJP and Shiv Sena have an electoral understanding since 1990 but for 2014 when they contested separately and then came together to share power.

It was in the late eighties when Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray and BJP's troubleshooter Pramod Mahajan sealed the saffron alliance on the issue of Hindutva.

The NCP came into existence in 1999 after Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar raised the issue of foreign origin of Sonia Gandhi and was expelled. But, after the polls, Pawar and Congress stalwarts like Sushilkumar Shinde and Vilasrao Deshmukh impressed on the need for an alliance.

"Seat sharing in the last two decades have been interesting. There are delays, war-of-words, hard-bargain, confusion, chaos," said the veteran political analyst, columnist and writer Prakash Akolkar.

From 2014 to 2019, there has been a change in the political scenario of India and Maharashtra. In 2019 itself, there is a difference in the situation, pre and post-Lok Sabha elections.

"In 2014 Assembly polls, the four players - BJP, Sena, Congress and NCP contested against each other. They realised the pitfalls and joined hands once again to be the ruling and opposition alliances. In Lok Sabha polls, it was need of BJP to take Sena along and now it is imperative for the Uddhav Thackeray to be with the ruling dispensation," said Akolkar.

A senior leader from the BJP-Sena alliance, who is part of the strategy team, said: "We cannot compare 2014 and 2018. Then both parties had 288 seats to contest, except a few seats. Now how do you adjust the people in No. 2 position or losers. In some cases, people last by a few hundred votes. It is difficult for both parties to handle. Even if we give seats here and there, things are difficult...For both (Shiv Sena president) Uddhav Thackeray and (chief minister) Devendra Fadnavis, it is a Catch 22 situation."

A maximum of seven to eight persons including prime minister Narendra Modi, BJP president and union home minister Amit Shah, Fadnavis and Thackeray know the fine prints. Much also depends on Shah's impending weekend visit to Mumbai.

Even while there is a war-of-words, leaders and emissaries form both sides are meeting almost every alternate evening and exchanging notes.

While the Sena is insisting on 50:50 break up (144 each), the BJP is not ready to give more than 115 to 120 to the Shiv Sena. In fact, Uddhav's son Aditya is being projected as a future CM which the BJP leadership had not taken kindly and even snubbed Sena by saying that the Thackeray scion could be deputy to Fadnavis.

(Published 20 September 2019, 05:31 IST)

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