Sena to contest 151 seats leaving 130 for BJP
All set for direct fight in Maharashtra
SS has its way, takes advantage of BJP’s compulsion to win
Days of uncertainly ends
Congress, NCP are likely to follow suit
Mumbai, September 23: The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance has survived the crisis that loomed before the polls. It is now clear that the BJP would settle for 130 seats leaving 151 for Shiv Sena as desired by the latter. The friendly parties would be allotted the rest of seven seats. The war of attrition has thus come to an end on the afternoon of Tuesday after hectic parleys and a lot of kite flying. The junior partner Shiv Sena had its way in getting the ‘Mission-151’ accepted by the senior ally.
The Shiv Sena mouthpiece ,Saamana, in its Tuesday issue lambasted the media controlled by the Congress party for wishing the demise of the BJP-SS alliance. It commented that the BJP and Shiv Sena horses are rearing to go and they are sure to beat the mules represented by the Congress and National Congress Party (NCP).
The NCP and the Congress party also are likely to bury the hatchet and come up soon with an announcement on sharing of seats. Sharad Pawar who presided over the meeting of the core committee at his residence on Monday said his party’s alliance would continue with the Congress. He is meeting his party’s senior leader and a final dialogue with the Congress is most likely any time now.
Mumbai, September 23: What is happening in Maharashtra? The opportunistic game of one-upmanship has been taking twists and turns by the hour. The four major parties that matter in Maharashtra Assembly elections have been busy in calculating the pluses and minuses of keeping or breaking alliances. The people whom they profess represent appear to hardly matter.
Both the alliances which endured for rather a long time given the moral decline in the Indian political arena are now on the verge of collapse. They might continue after all out of sheer desperation to prevent defeat which is most likely if they opt to go it alone in the elections polling for which is scheduled on October 15 along with Haryana. The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance has been the most enduring in Indian politics with 25 years of turbulent relationship. On the other hand, Congress-NCP (Nationalist Congress Party) pact has been going on for 15 years. Partners in both the alliances are tired of managing the marriage without ending up in divorce despite a lot of acrimony over the years.
The BJP certainly wants to win in Maharashtra and Haryana. Among the two States, winning in Haryana is easier since it is a direct fight, more or less, with the Congress whose fortunes have been dwindling. The Congress party lost all the Lok Sabha seats in Haryana in the recent general elections. The Aam Admi Party which showed some promise before the general elections hoped to make some gains under the leadership of Yogendra Yadav, the political pundit turned advisor to AAP leadership. But after the Delhi fiasco, the fledgling party had lost its confidence and kept away from ambitious projects. It is not expected to mount a big campaign in the Assembly elections. The Hooda government has been very unpopular and the anti-incumbency is writ large on the walls of Haryana. The Congress losing the State is certain and the gain would be BJP’s as there is no other major party in the fray with Devilal’s progeny reduced to a fringe players. The junior partner of the BJP that deserted recently does not really matter.
The case of Maharashtra is entirely different. Although the Congress-NCP alliance has been in power for three terms and the triple incumbency factor is showing in the results of the opinion polls, it cannot be written off. Almost all the polls predicted the defeat of the alliance that has been in power. There is clear fatigue both in the Congress and the NCP. While the NCP leaders have been playing on both sides conducting parleys with the Congress on one hand and the BJP on the other, it is losing some established leaders including sitting ministers to the BJP. The general impression that the BJP is sure to win this time is acting as an addtitional attraction for the opportunistic politicians who are keen on remaining in power even if it means changing the colours and the ditching the ally is the process. Sensing the clever moves by NCP’s leader Sharad Pawar who is known to be adept at guessing the popular pulse and predicting the outcome of poll results, the Congress leaders including Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and PCC chief Manikrao Thackeray, are resigned to the future course of action whichever way it might be. It could be in alliance with the NCP or solo. “We are optimistic of our alliance with NCP continuing. At the same time we are also fully prepared to fighting on our own” said AICC spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi. The AICC Screening Committee and the party’s Central Committee have been regularly meeting and monitoring the moves of the NCP. The Congress high command is aware that the attitude of Sharad Pawar towards the party would depend on the outcome of the negotiations between NCP and the BJP. That again would depend on the relationship between the BJP and the Shiv Sena.
If it is possible to keep the alliance with Shiv Sena going without making too many sacrifices, the BJP would prefer that scenario rather than strike a deal with the NCP. Shiv Sena is a known devil as far as the BJP is concerned and there is ideological sink between the two parties. It would be a different ball game with the NCP. It was rumoured that Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi had dropped his plans to visit the constituency in which Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule contested in the general elections to enable her to win. That the PM has a soft corner for Maratha leader is a public secret. That is perhaps the reason why the BJP honchos are not disturbed by the attitude of Shiv Sena chief UdhavThackeray. The BJP’s plan-B is to have a tie-up with the NCP. The Shiv Sena has upped its demand after the BJP lost bypolls in Bihar, Uttara Pradesh and elsewhere. The BJP is desperate about winning in Maharashtra and so the Shiv Sena calculated that the national party would willy-nilly accept any number of seats it finally offered. The opening offer from Shiv Sena was 128 seats to BJP which has to accommodate its junior partners too. Raju Shetty of Swabhiman Shetkari Sanghatana and Mahadev Jankar of the Rashtriya Samaj Paksha are waiting in the wings unable to decide whom to negotiate with. They are looking forward to the conclusion of the talks between the two major parties. Shetty expressed confidence that although Ramdas Athavale of the Republican Party of India has been talking in contradictory terms about the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance, that RPI also would stick to the pressure group of smaller parties. The smaller parties are unhappy with Shiv Sena which, they feel, has been creating problems for the alliance. In 2009 elections, Shiv Sena won 46 seats and BJP 44. In 2004, the BJP won more seats, 62 as against 54 by SS. Earlier in 1999 also BJP had an upper hand with 69 seats for SS’s 56. Even before that in 1995 Assembly elections the BJP had won more seats with 73 against Shiv Sena’s 65. As against this background, the BJP is justified in demanding more seats what with the robust wave created by Narendra Modi only a few months ago. Although the wave appears to have been on the wane, there is no indication of the fortunes of the Shiv Sena turning up for any reason. The top leadership of the BJP has been giving a long rope to Shiv Sena although the latter had organized pasting of posters on the walls in Mumbai against Amit Shah, the BJP president. The national party leading the NDA government has been reluctant to snap its ties with the longest ally. It had presented a fresh proposal to Shiv Sena offering to contest 130 seats in the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly. Pratap Sigh Rudy, the party’s in charge for Maharashtra had made it clear that this was the last proposal from their side. The BJP, in fact, had climbed down from 144 seats. The Shiv Sena had announced ‘Mission – 151’ and it also wanted the chief minister’s post to be reserved for it. The BJP has been very strongly urging Shiv Sena to renegotiate the 59 seats which it lost badly in the last elections. The seats lost by the Shiv Sena were gained by the Congress-NCP alliance.
The closing date for filing nominations is approaching fast and the four major parties have to decide their future course in a day or two. If the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance breaks up, the Congress-NCP tie-up also would not be intact. It is for sure.