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Will BJP replace ally Shiv Sena with MNS for assembly polls?

Miffed at the Shiv Sena’s unrelenting stance on giving more seats to the BJP, the party is seriously considering forming an alliance with the MNS and smaller parties from the Mahayuti, say senior state leaders

With the impasse over seat sharing with its ally Shiv Sena showing no signs of ending, the BJP is seriously considering forming a new alliance with the MNS and smaller parties from the Mahayuti.

BJP state unit leaders said that the central leadership has asked them to sort out the seat sharing issue at the local level. File pic
BJP state unit leaders said that the central leadership has asked them to sort out the seat sharing issue at the local level. File pic

According to highly placed sources in the BJP, the party’s state unit is miffed at the Sena’s unrelenting attitude to its demand for more seats as well as the regional party’s insistence on negotiating with the BJP’s central leadership.

“It has been nearly a month since our first dialogue with the Sena over seat sharing and no more meetings have happened since then. We are now seriously considering the possibility of forming an alliance with the Raj Thackeray-led MNS,” said a senior BJP leader, who refused to come on record citing the “delicate situation” with the Sena.

“The Sena leadership wants BJP president Amit Shah and Home Minister Rajnath Singh to speak to them on the seat sharing issue, which is a remote possibility as we have been asked to sort it out at the state level. We have clearly told Sena leaders that we want something in return for the six Lok Sabha seats that we parted with in 1989,” he added.

“Though it was decided by late Sena chief Bal Thackeray and late Pramod Mahajan that that BJP and Sena would contest 32 and 16 Lok Sabha seats respectively, Sena snatched six LS seats Thane, Nashik, Buldhana, Ratnagiri, Raigad and Khed from us.

Thane, Nashik and Buldhana were given to the Sena despite the fact that the BJP had won them in 1989. And now, we nominated RPI leader Ramdas Athawale to the Rajya Sabha though he was expected to be nominated by the Sena,” said the leader.

The BJP camp expects the Sena to compensate for all this with at least 42 additional seats for the assembly elections, which will increase the party’s quota of 117 assembly seats to 159. But, BJP leaders said, the Sena leadership has not been responsive since the July 25 meeting at a hotel in BKC.

“Now that the BJP’s central leadership wants us to take a decision, the state unit can go ahead with the strategy of taking MNS into the fold in place of the Sena. The Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, led by MP Raju Shetty, and Rashtriya Samaj Paksha, led by Mahadeo Jankar, have no objection to this arrangement,” claimed the BJP leader.

Priorities
BJP leaders said that at a time when BJP chief Amit Shah is busy handling the preparations for assembly elections in Haryana, Jharkhand, Jammu & Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh, it was unrealistic to expect him to spare a lot of time for Maharashtra.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, they said, is also busy dealing with the sensitive issue of state border clashes in Assam and Nagaland, among other things. “In such a scenario, the state BJP core committee, which has been asked to conclude the seat sharing talks, is toying with options apart from the Shiv Sena as well,” said a senior leader.

When contacted, Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Eknath Khadse admitted that the talks with the Sena have been delayed. “But, we are hopeful that the issue will be sorted out in the next eight days,” he said, adding that the prevailing view in the state unit was that Sena should allocate more seats to the BJP from its quota in lieu of the six Lok Sabha seats the BJP had given them in the past.

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