Ahead Of Maharashtra Polls, Rift Between Shiv Sena, BJP Over Seat Sharing

Ahead Of Maharashtra Polls, Rift Between Shiv Sena, BJP Over Seat Sharing

Maharashtra's ruling BJP and Shiv Sena combine are facing a problem of plenty, with nearly 30 leaders from the Congress and Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party joining their ranks. It is not yet clear if the parties would contest the coming state election as an alliance, but if they do, finding tickets for these leaders would be a problem.

Political circles are abuzz with speculation that the election might end up being a BJP versus Shiv Sena battle. The two parties, already divided over seat sharing, are also vying for the Chief Minister's post.

Sources told NDTV that the BJP thinks it should now act like the "big brother" and give the Sena no more than 120 of the state's 288 seats. With massive resources at its disposal, the party feels it can attain a majority on its own and cam dump the fractious ally, who even now is criticizing it on issues like chopping of trees in Aarey Colony and wants them to listen to Manmohan Singh on economy.

The Sena is not keen to break off the alliance, but is preparing for the eventuality of going it alone. Party chief Uddhav Thackeray has told close aides that while Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is keen to continue the tie-up, the state BJP is not ready for a 50-50 seat sharing deal - which was the commitment from party chief Amit Shah when he came calling at Matoshree before the Lok Sabha elections.

Mr Fadnavis has indicated that things can still work out. "If we have to fight in an alliance we'll get some and we won't get some. We are not worried about it," he told reporters during the ongoing Maha Jan Aadesh Yatra, a statewide voter outreach programme.

Asked about seat sharing, Mr Thackeray told reporters, "Everything between us is already decided". Then, he let the sarcasm show. "I will wait for the Chief Minister to prepare a list of Shiv Sena candidates and seats they can contest. Then I will put that list in front of the party and we will decide".

The Sena, which had been amenable after the Lok Sabha election results, is now beginning to return to its earlier 'in-house opposition' mode.

In the party mouthpiece Saamna, it took a dig at Industry and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal for his ''Einstein discovered gravity'' comment and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman over her comment attributing the slump in automobile sales to the millennials who, she said, prefer to take Ola and Uber.

A top BJP leader told NDTV, "We haven't forgotten how they attacked PM Modi before the alliance for the Lok Sabha election was announced".

For the Opposition, it is a question of retaining numerical relevance in the Assembly.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar has made it clear that new faces in the party will be given a chance. But the new arrivals are no match for the seasoned politicians who walked out. Top Congress leaders who joined the BJP are Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, Harshwardhan Patil and Narayan Rane. Kripashankar Singh, who quit the Congress recently, is also likely to join the BJP.

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