BJP-Shiv Sena pact for Lok Sabha polls on course

MUMBAI: BJP and Shiv Sena agreed in principle to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections together at the meeting between their chiefs, Amit Shah and Uddhav Thackeray , on Wednesday, but the discussion at Matoshree remained inconclusive due to lack of consensus over sharing of seats for the Maharashtra assembly polls, also due next year after the parliamentary elections.

If a senior BJP cabinet member is to be believed, both parties agreed to stick to the 2014 formula for the LS polls. BJP had then contested 26 of the total 48 seats, and Sena 22. However, after the discussion on sharing of seats for the assembly polls began, there seemed to be no consensus and the meeting had to be adjourned. In the 2014 state elections, BJP had contested 260 seats and won 122, while Sena had contested 282 and won 63.

The cabinet member said the BJP leadership took the view that since BJP and Sena together had won 185 out of the total 288 assembly seats, the discussion on seat sharing should be restricted to the remaining 103 seats.

Before 2014, when BJP and Sena had contested the state polls jointly, the Sena had contested 171 seats while BJP had contested 117. It had been agreed during the Bal Thackeray-Advani-Vajpayee era that the chief minister would be from the party that secured more seats. As Sena had got more seats in 1995, one of its leaders, Manohar Joshi, became the CM.

The BJP member said that after the 2014 LS and assembly polls too, the BJP’s performance under the leadership of CM Devendra Fadnavis had been impressive, and it had won the largest number of seats in elections to municipal corporations, councils and zilla parishads. “The entire (changed) political situation was explained to the Sena leadership. BJP will not contest less than 122 assembly seats,” the cabinet minister said.

The alliance had come apart before the 2014 assembly polls after the Sena called itself the ‘senior partner’ and insisted on contesting more seats, while BJP leaders took the view that BJP had much improved its performance, especially after Narendra Modi’s victory in the LS polls, so the old formula had no relevance. “We won more seats in the 2014 assembly elections than Sena after we contested separately,” the BJP member said.

Further, the minister said the Sena leadership was told that if BJP and Sena did not contest together in 2019 and Congress and NCP joined hands, the alliance was sure to lose power in the state.

As no agreement was reached on Wednesday evening, Amit Shah agreed to resume discussions as early as possible. “Shah does not have any ego. He is prepared to visit Matoshree on any number of occasions to save the alliance,” the minister said.

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