People at Lalbaug and Parel who gathered in large numbers onSunday at Nare Park, where Raj Thackeray addressed a Dussehra rally for the first time were surprised when the MNS chief refused to speak about the ongoing tiff between his party and his cousin’s -- the Shiv Sena. Sources in the know say that the silence and the MNS chief’s non-confrontational tone could be attributed to the fact to seat-sharing discussions for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Leaders said that on the insistence of Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, MNS would receive four seats in Maharashtra, three from BJP’s quota and one from Sena’s, much to the ire of the Shiv Sena. An official told MiD DAY that this seat sharing would be an understanding rather than an official alliance and added that during discussions, Sena was adamant and did not relent beyond handing over a single seat to the MNS.
Ever since the discussions had reached a consensus, neither cousin has spoken against each other. In fact, even during the Dussehra rally, Sena party chief Uddhav refused to speak against his cousin despite the fact that both parties were involved in a war of words over the controversial sports complex at Nare Park (see box). Similarly, even Raj Thackeray refused to involve himself in a debate and said, ‘I have not created this party so that the Marathi Manoos can fight among themselves and break each other’s heads.’
The deal, according to sources, was sealed recently and BJP had to eat humble pie, as the party would lose three seats from its current quota.
In 2009, out of the six seats in Mumbai, BJP contested from three -- north-central, north-east and north. Now, the party may offer north or north-east to the MNS, as the party had acquired more than one lakh votes last time, said a senior party leader. The other seats that the party may offer are Pune and Bhiwandi.
Hard bargaining is also underway for South Mumbai where MNS MLA Bala Nandgaonkar was the second runner-up but will depend on discussions between the Sena and BJP, said the leader.
The fourth seat, a lone seat from Sena’s quota, will mostly be from Mumbai or Kalyan from Thane district, sources said. When asked, BJP state unit chief Devendra Fadnavis said he was not aware of the finalisation of the seat-sharing pact. He said, “As far as I know, no discussion has taken place regarding the issue.”
Nare Park debate
The MNS and Sena have been involved in a power tussle over a sports complex at Nare Park in Sewree. MNS MLA Bala Nandgaonkar had proposed to build the complex consisting of various amenities such as a state-of-the-art gym, a swimming pool, a cafeteria, a conference room, a computer room, two terrace gardens and a parking plaza for 25-35 vehicles. However, this plan was blocked by the BMC and a war of words broke out between Nandgaonkar and Sena corporator Nana Ambole. Nandgaonkar had said that he would go ahead with the construction even if the BMC did not pass it and on Sunday, Raj Thackeray even performed a bhoomi poojan at the ground.