11:29 am - Sunday October 25, 2020

BJP, Sena still in talks; alliance hangs by the thread

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The high drama over seat sharing in Maharashtra seems far from over, with both the BJP and the Shiv Sena saying on Thursday that the talks between them were still on.

As contradicting reports emerged in Delhi and Mumbai, both parties continued their blame game and brinksmanship, accusing each other of trying to break the alliance.

BJP state chief Devendra Fadnavis told reporters that the Sena needed to come up with a fresh proposal as both the BJP and the smallier allies were unhappy with their stand.

Earlier, sources said the Sena agreed to give three seats to smaller parties from its share. As per the new formula, the Sena agreed to contest in 148 seats and field nominees of smaller allies in three seats on its symbol.

So, in this case, though the seat sharing formula for the Sena, the BJP and the minor allies would read 151-127-10, the Sena would be fielding its candidates in only 148 means.

Technically that would mean the BJP would have made the Sena concede 23 seats from what it contested last time. But the BJP was not satisfied even with this.

Last Sunday, the Sena offered the BJP 119 and other small parties in the coalition 18 of the 288 seats in the politically crucial state, while keeping 151 seats for itself — an offer Uddhav Thackeray termed the ‘last effort’ to save the alliance.

The BJP, which initially demanded 135 seats for each of the big two, had immediately rejected the proposal. The BJP wanted to fight at least 130 seats.

It had asked the Sena to come down to 140 seats and distribute the remaining 18 between four other allies. The BJP’s demand was based on the results of the April-May Lok Sabha polls, when it won 23 and the Sena 18 of the 48 seats in the state.

Many feel the setbacks suffered by the BJP in the recent bypolls could have given the Sena an upper hand in the negotiation. Moreover, Sena chief Uddhav had recently kicked up a storm in remarks that many viewed as a criticism of the much-talked-about ‘Modi wave’.

Even though Uddhav had said on Sunday that he respected Modi, a section of BJP leaders did not take the matter lightly. There are also reports that the Sena brass was wary of the BJP’s ambitions in Maharashtra.

In the face of Sena’s tough stand, the BJP had made it clear it has done enough sacrifices for the alliance already and is in no mood to relent now.

On Wednesday, the Sena stood on prestige and said it would not contest less than 151 seats. Through the day, the BJP encouraged smaller allies to push the Sena for more seats.

The situation worsened when three of the smaller allies — the Swabhimaan Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS), the Shiv Sangram, and the Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSP) — accused the Sena-BJP combine of sacrificing them for their own interests.

The BJP core committee meeting is now on to decide the future of the alliance.

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