Finally, Sena-BJP drama ends

Facing the media together for the first time in several days, senior Shiv Sena and BJP leaders said the two parties were “firm” on continuing the alliance as they resumed the deadlocked seat-sharing talks for Maharashtra Assembly polls. Putting up a united front, the Shiv Sena and BJP, allies for nearly 25 years, declared at a joint press conference that the two parties were keen on persisting the alliance; they have been backbiting over their share of seats for the Maharashtra assembly elections. Meanwhile, with only four days left to file nominations, the ruling Congress-NCP combine seemed no closer to resolving the impasse on seat-sharing. For years the Shiv Sena has been the senior partner in their alliance, while the Congress has played that role with the NCP. The results of the national elections seemed to throw those equations apart. The BJP won the lion’s share of the Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra at 23; the Shiv Sena won 18. In the rout they faced, the NCP won four seats, while the Congress could manage only on 2 seats. The week-long stalemate over sharing of seats between the BJP and the Shiv Sena, which had threatened the future of the 25-year-old alliance ahead of the crucial Assembly elections in Maharashtra, finally reached to an understanding. Now, Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena will contest 151 seats while the BJP has been given 130 seats for the elections to the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly. The other ally in the 25-year-old Mahayuti or the Grand Alliance, has been allotted seven seats in the new arrangement. The decision to give how much seats to whom are yet to be decided.

All eyes will be now on the Congress-NCP alliance, which is also on the brink over the sharing of seats. The BJP-Shiv Sena deal is likely to accelerate their negotiations now. Senior NCP leaders have been summoned by the party Chief Sharad Pawar to his residence in Mumbai for an emergency meeting shortly after their meeting with Congress over seat-sharing for Maharashtra Assembly elections remained inconclusive. NCP’s demand to fight half of the 288 seats in Maharashtra is the sticking point that has threatened the 15-year-old alliance. The NCP, buoyed by its performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections where it won more seats (4) than the Congress (2), has been demanding 144 seats to contest the polls. There is perfect understanding between the two parties except the seat sharing deal.

BJP and Shiv Sena have quarrels over two issues: seat sharing and nominee for the post of Chief Minister. On the first issue, the Shiv Sena thinks inversely after the declaration of the recent by-election results in which the BJP scored poorly and hence gained more bargaining power, pitches adamantly for more seats. And second, Uddhav Thackeray openly seeks the Chief Minister’s post for himself without considering others’ views and reality. He deludes himself by thinking that he is another Bala Saheb Thackeray and he is fully eligible to fill the post. So, the present gridlock in the talks between BJP and Shiv Sena is solely an ego issue in two parties.

Now coming to the loss or win, Shiv Sena has definitely shown some gross rigidity in dealing with the situation. Then the announcement of CM candidature openly in public by Uddhav himself, without consulting with the BJP, showed his lack of far-sightedness. If Shiv Sena wanted to project itself as a honcho, it should have done that with a closed door meeting with the BJP and then publicly announcing the gallantry. Shiv Sena has come up with this idea to show hostility when the BJP is trying to overpower it. However, the methodology shows deep issues with the Shiv Sena leadership. Meanwhile, BJP too has leadership crises in the state, they don’t have face of party in Maharashtra. BJP is also dealing with internal politics in the state. There is lots of internal disharmony in the party.

The inflexible attitudes assumed by BJP and the Sena are another instance of this age old alliance. They know that victory in the coming election is within their grasp but, ego-centered partisan politics has pushed their common ideology, “Hindutva” on the back burner and is threatening to break the old alliance. Opinion of the experts is that no party will win a simple majority in a four cornered contest. A hung assembly is the worst thing that could happen in a democracy, since it invariably leads to horse trading, unprincipled legislation and unholy alliances. In the absence of an established state leader like late Munde, BJP should show some grace, take the initiative, agree to let the Sena chief head the government and be satisfied with some key portfolios in the new cabinet. The BJP-Sena tie up should stay for the good of Maharashtra on the terms of Shiv Sena. The Shiv Sena is a party with strong mass base and their solid supports on various programs of the party are vital for the BJP. Otherwise the BJP will go like Congress and NCP. Let’s see, the days are very few, how these two major alliances of Maharashtra play their card for assembly elections.