BJP, Sena prepare to fly solo in the polls

While Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said he wouldn’t do anything to harm the alliance, he rejected the BJP’s demand for 135 seats; BJP is working on strategy to fight the polls alone

It seems to be all but over for the alliance between BJP and the Shiv Sena. Less than a month remains for the state assembly polls and both parties are coming to terms with new equations they have to work out, in order to gain power in the state.

While senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders are working out a strategy to fight the polls without the Sena, even the latter is preparing to go it alone. File pic
While senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders are working out a strategy to fight the polls without the Sena, even the latter is preparing to go it alone. File pic

mid-day had reported yesterday that the BJP had ended all forms of communication with the Sena, after the former took umbrage to comments made by Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray about PM Narendra Modi on Saturday.

Thackeray had said the Modi factor hadn’t worked in some states and in Maharashtra, it had worked, but credit was due to the alliance parties as well. A day after this, BJP’s spokesperson Madhav Bhandari announced the decision to halt all talks, as directed by BJP state unit chief Devendra Fadnavis.

Reacting to Thackeray’s statements, Shaina NC, the party’s treasurer, said Thackeray should be sensitive while speaking about another leader. “A leader has to be rational and sensitive when he talks about another leader. Uddhav’s statement against the biggest leader of the country, Modi, has upset all of us,” she said at BJP headquarters.

On Monday, the BJP’s top brass in the state sat through the day to work out modalities to contest the elections without the Sena. Later in the day, BJP state in-charge Rajeev Pratap Rudy joined them only to approve a proposal to be submitted to the central unit of the party.

Sena doesn’t relent
The reticent Thackeray took strong exception to the BJP’s decision to go incommunicado. The party chief stated at an event, “Did I lie? I stand by what I said.” He also took a dig at Bhandari, saying he only spoke to Fadnavis and Om Mathur, the BJP’s newly appointed general secretary and nobody else.

While saying he wouldn’t do anything to harm the alliance, Thackeray made it clear that he was not going to accept BJP’s demand for 135 seats. “I have told them about it,” he said, even as Rudy, on Sunday, reiterated the BJP’s demand for an equal share – 135 seats. This further angered the BJP, which was already sulking.

Sources said the central unit of the BJP has authorised the state unit to be prepared to fight on its own. Fadnavis, along with Eknath Khadse and Vinod Tawde, leaders of opposition in state assembly and council respectively, discussed their future strategy in a meeting that was on till late evening, sources said.

Sources cited a third-party survey BJP had commissioned, which claimed that it could win more than 130 seats if it fights alone. “The Sena, under Uddhav Thackeray’s leadership, cannot go beyond 40. And the smaller parties such as Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana, Rashtriya Samaj Paksha, Shiv Sangram and RPI (A) can join a BJP-led alliance,” sources told this paper.

On the other side, Shiv Sena, too, has chalked out a strategy and completed a screening process of candidates for most of the seats out of the 288-member state assembly. It has also inducted prominent leaders from rival parties wherever the party organisation is weak.

NCP’s role
In a scenario where BJP and Sena part ways and fight elections separately, NCP may emerge as supporter to the party with the maximum MLAs. According to senior political leaders, if BJP emerges as a single largest party and requires a few numbers to make the government, a little nudge from the NCP cannot be ruled out. Similarly, if the Sena becomes the single largest party and wishes to form government without the BJP to teach it a lesson, it can seek NCP’s help, said the leaders.

NCP, which is finding it difficult to maintain its present tally of 62, and is passing through a tough phase, can use such an opportunity to stay closer to power, say the senior leaders. “The NCP wants to teach a lesson to the Congress, and to Prithviraj Chavan, in particular. The CM has not spared any opportunity to corner our party,” said a party leader, requesting anonymity.

Voices

Uddhav Thackeray, Shiv Sena chief
I stand by what I said. But I cannot give 135 seats. I will never take any step that will break the alliance. I want to save the alliance and will work for it.

Shaina NC, BJP treasurer
A leader has to be rational and sensitive, when he talks about another leader. Uddhav’s statement against the biggest leader of the country, Modi, has upset all of us.

Madhav Bhandari, BJP spokesperson
In an alliance, there is no big or small brother

- Inputs by Varun Singh

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