For all intents and purposes, the alliance between Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena for the Maharashtra Assembly elections has been sealed. That’s however the broad picture. The final word is yet to come because the two sides dispute the content of the agreement arrived at by Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and BJP chief Amit Shah.
At present, the Shiv Sena and the BJP see the content of the agreement differently.
The BJP, with 122 seats, would not settle for 135, while the Sena with 63 legislators getting the same is not going down well with the saffron party.
Moreover, the BJP sees the ‘power-sharing’ clause as one where the Sena would get the deputy chief minister’s chair.
As of now, the two sides are not making an issue out of these matters because they are busy chasing turncoats to strengthen themselves.
The idea of fighting equal number of seats, as flogged by the Sena, militates against the BJP’s crying need to accommodate heavyweight turncoats like Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil. Additionally, the BJP would not want to deprive sitting MLAs of their tickets to accommodate turncoats.
With the Congress and the NCP, both of which are in an existential crisis, likely to be in an alliance, the BJP would not wish to see Sena fighting as the third force. It is therefore allowing the Sena to market itself in the way it wants to.
In fact, of late, BJP leaders have been told to not contradict any of the claims made by the Sena. This has forced the Sena to change its messaging, with Aaditya Thackeray now being portrayed as an eventual chief minister, perhaps after 2024.
The Sena does see the logic behind BJP’s move. Though weakened, Congress-NCP alliance could hurt the BJP and the Sena in a triangular contest. Also, given the BJP’s increased traction with voters after the abrogation of Article 370, the Sena understands that it is at an disadvantage.
The Sena has been insisting that the BJP had agreed to contest an equal number of seats and rotate the chief minister’s position after two-and-a-half years.
But the BJP does not see it that way, arguing that the two parties would contest seats in proportion to the seats now held, leaving some seats for smaller allies.
Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned with a bigger mandate earlier this year, the Sena has been all praises for the BJP. Therefore, the party would find it difficult to ideologically fight the BJP in the upcoming Maharashtra Assembly election.
The best bet for the two saffron allies, therefore, is to exchange their lists of seats and likely candidates. No doubt, there would be some give and take. But till then, Maharashtra is likely to witness a smoke and mirrors trick.
(The writer is a veteran Mumbai-based journalist)...