Mumbai: For the first time since 1989 in its alliance with the BJP, the Shiv Sena has formally accepted a lower share of seats for the Maharashtra assembly elections, saying the former needs more space to accommodate defectors and its other allies and the Sena is keeping an open mind.
In an editorial in the party’s mouthpiece publication Saamana Wednesday, the Shiv Sena said it will contest “approximately 125 seats” of Maharashtra’s 288 assembly seats, but stopped short of giving official numbers.
According to sources from both parties, the Sena and the BJP have agreed on a formula where the former contests 124 seats and the latter 164. The parties have also decided that the BJP will accommodate its other allies such as the Republican Party of India and the Rashtriya Samaj Paksha from its quota of seats.
“In an alliance there is give and take. This time we have to accept that in Shiv Sena’s case there is more give than take, but we are determined to get 100 per cent success in whatever we have got,” said the editorial.
“In Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance has got an official stamp. A joint statement was released stamped and signed by senior leaders of both parties. Still the question is asked, ‘When will the official announcement of the alliance be made? Exactly how are the seats distributed?’ You will ask the questions and you will answer it yourself,” it added.
In the three-decade old alliance, the Shiv Sena always had an undisputed upper hand in seat-sharing, offering anywhere between 105 and 119 seats to the BJP over the years.
The seat-sharing negotiations this year have been a complete role reversal of 2014 when the Shiv Sena wanted to contest 151 of the 288 seats in the Maharashtra assembly elections, leaving 119 for the BJP and the rest for other allies.
At that time, the BJP was bargaining hard for a better share on the back of its surge in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and the immediacy of the ‘Modi wave’. With Shiv Sena refusing to relent, the alliance splintered. The two parties contested solo. The BJP won 122 seats and the Shiv Sena 63.
This time, the Shiv Sena was bargaining hard with the BJP to stick to the agreement the two parties had struck for the assembly polls when they buried their differences and came together to contest the Lok Sabha election.
In February this year, following a meeting between BJP president Amit Shah, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena head Uddhav Thackeray, the parties had announced that for the assembly election, they will share all seats and posts equally after accommodating other allies. However, the thundering success in the Lok Sabha elections gave BJP the opportunity to seek a larger share of the pie.
Political analyst Hemant Desai said, “The Shiv Sena knows exactly how much power it has now. Whatever the party may say publicly, it absolutely had to accept the seat-sharing deal that the BJP was offering otherwise it would have lost some of its leaders and cadre.
“Now in Narendra Modi’s and BJP’s name, the party will easily get more seats than it won in 2014.”
Due to this role reversal, it is turning out to be difficult for the Shiv Sena to face the press, and the party will keep making emotional and sentimental statements about its legacy and power to keep its cadre happy, Desai added.
‘BJP needs to accommodate ambitious leaders’
The Shiv Sena said the BJP has become a large national party and there are many senior leaders from across the political spectrum sitting on its fence, waiting to be accommodated.
“For them to be served well, the BJP will have to take a big bite and we have accepted that with a big heart. Whether to call this a lion’s share or something else, one can decide,” said the Sena in the editorial.
The party added, “The BJP also has several allies who need to be given their share. This is how the calculation was and it was decided that the Shiv Sena will contest around 125 seats. We were prepared for all 288 assemblies too.”
While Sena leaders agree that the tide has changed in favour of the BJP, leaving little choice for the party but to accept smaller share of seats, there is still resentment among party leaders about the new balance of scales.
Shiv Sena still ‘at the helm of Maharashtra’
In the Saamana editorial, the party made it a point to emphasise that it has always been at Maharashtra’s helm and will continue to be so.
“A number of cats have crossed the Shiv Sena’s path until now. Many created holes and thorns along the way. But the party has dealt with them all. It will be better for the health of those who see crooked dreams about the Shiv Sena to remember this,” the party said.
“The Shiv Sena is at the helm of Maharashtra and will continue to be.”
Over the past five years, there has been a successful alliance of the BJP and the Shiv Sena on one side, and an opposition in tatters on the other, said the party.
“In the alliance the two parties agree on most issues. Can one say the same about the opposition? It is easy to enter the arena. It is difficult to last in it. Now the ground is also ours, the arena is also ours and the horses that run in the arena are also ours. The alliance has been finalised and victory is certain,” it added.