Amit Shah's directive to BJP cadres in Mumbai: Go Soft On Shiv Sena
Instructions on a day when Sena boycotted Prime Minister Narendra Modi's functions in Kalyan and Pune because party president Uddhav Thackeray was not invited to share the dais with him
In dire need of alliance partners in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to avoid duelling publicly with the Shiv Sena. Party president Amit Shah issued clear directives to this effect during his two-day visit to Mumbai. The instructions came on a day the Sena boycotted Prime Minister Narendra Modi's functions in Kalyan and Pune, because party president Uddhav Thackeray was not invited to share the dais with him.
Earlier, a miffed Sena had held the ground-breaking ceremony of Mumbai's coastal road at which the chief minister was not invited. Sources said talks for seat-sharing between the two may soon gain momentum as feelers had already been exchanged. The instructions came on a day the Sena boycotted Prime Minister Narendra Modi's functions in Kalyan and Pune, because party president Uddhav Thackeray was not invited to share the dais with him.
Shah held a late night closed-door meeting on Wednesday with CM Devendra Fadnavis, senior party leaders and ministers at Sahyadri guesthouse. He also addressed a larger audience of party leaders, MPs and MLAs at the party's Dadar office. The indication he gave was that the BJP won't offend the Sena anymore, but woo it into an alliance.
Shah told the leaders that the alliance should happen at any cost. He had himself softened the hard approach towards the Sena by visiting the Thackerays some months ago. The result of the five state Assembly polls has given the Sena some advantage that could be used to boost its bargain power. Sources said the Sena was prepared to ask for more than half seats to the 288-member house to contest in the Assembly polls next year, and seek more seats in the Lok Sabha elections scheduled to be held after four months.
In a morale-booster, Shah told party men that it was wrong to assume that the defeat in three states would translate into a slump for the BJP in the Lok Sabha, and a poor show in the Maharashtra Assembly. He said the opposition's attempt to put up a grand alliance would not result into any big gain because the regional parties would not join hands with the Congress.
Shah said the fact that BJP still ruled 16 states would ensure a big victory in the general elections. The saffron parties are together in power in the state and Centre, but the Sena behaves more like the opposition than ruling partner. However, the situation seems to be altering. And as Shah told the meetings, Fadnavis is talking alliance with Thackeray.
On exchanging seats
Sources said the talks for sharing seats between the Sena and BJP may soon gain momentum as feelers are being exchanged. Some suggestions have been made to alter the existing arrangement in Mumbai. The BJP wants Sena to give up South Mumbai (Sena MP Arvind Sawant's seat) and take North-Central (BJP MP Poonam Mahajan's seat) instead. However, the Sena wants North-East (BJP MP Kirit Somaiya's seat) in exchange. But the BJP may not vacate its claim to North-East as Mahajan is said to be interested in shifting her candidature there.
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