Seat sharing strains ties in Maharashtra

Sena offers 119 seats, BJP rejects offer

Seat sharing strains ties in Maharashtra

The tug-of-war over seat sharing between the Shiv Sena and the BJP intensified on Sunday as the saffron leaders rejected Sena’s fresh offer of 119 seats and renewed the demand to end the three-decade-old alliance. 

The picture was similar in ruling NCP-Congress combine as the two parties engaged in muscle-flexing with Maharashtra Congress chief Manikrao Thakre choosing to ignore the one-day deadline set by the NCP on Saturday for finalising the seat-sharing arrangement.

As only six days remained for filing nomination papers to contest polls for the 288-member Assembly, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday made a fresh offer to the BJP but agreed to cede no more than 119 seats. This prompted BJP leaders to renew their demand for snapping of ties with the regional ally. 

The BJP parliamentary board meeting held late on Sunday evening ended without any formal announcement amid indications of differences in the top leadership on ending the alliance. There were reports that senior BJP leader and Modi confidant Om Mathur was expected to meet Thackeray on Monday to make a final attempt to arrive at an “honourable agreement”.

Maharashtra BJP leaders Eknath Khadse and Vinod Tawde wanted re-negotiation on 59 seats which the Shiv Sena had never won in the last 25 years. The BJP leaders were further angered by Thackeray’s caustic remarks in Mumbai on Sunday morning, reminding Prime Minister Narendra Modi that it was Sena founder Bal Thackeray who had stood by him during his trying times in the aftermath of the Godhra riots of 2002.

Meanwhile, Congress leaders continued consultations over candidates in Delhi throughout the day. Sharad Pawar’s NCP has called a meeting of its top leaders in Mumbai on Monday to decide on the deadlock with its ally of 15 years.The Election Commission issued the notification for the October 15 polls on Saturday and the last date for filing of nomination papers is September 27.

In Mumbai, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said the first list of Congress candidates would be announced on Monday. The Congress’ central election committee on Saturday had cleared the names of 174 probable candidates.

Contending that it had won more Lok Sabha seats in the state, the NCP wanted 144 seats. The Congress said it was not willing to give more than 126, a dozen seats more than what the NCP contested in 2009.

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