BJP to contest 2019 elections sans Shiv Sena?
The BJP after almost four years of bitter relationship with Shiv Sena has indicated to its Maharashtra cadres that the party may have to dump its oldest ally in the next polls and go solo. This comes after the Shiv Sena decided to abstain from voting during the no-confidence motion against Modi government.
The Shiv Sena said they'll abstain from voting during the no-confidence motion "in protest against BJP". An editorial published in Shiv Sena's mouthpiece Saamna used terms like "butcher" and "oppression" while referring to the NDA government and its politics.
Top sources in Maharashtra BJP told India Today that, during a closed door meeting in Mumbai on Sunday, BJP chief Amit Shah told Maharashtra BJP leaders that they should start working for the 2019 Lok Sabha keeping the possibility of contesting elections without the Shiv Sena in mind.
A Maharashtra BJP leader, preferring not to speak on record, said that the BJP president has clearly conveyed that things have come to a pass and they should prepare a blueprint for contesting all 48 seats in the state alone.
Shah also told the leaders to work hard and build networks in all constituencies. He said that even if Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP contested the polls together, they should not be able to win.
BJP had played second fiddle to the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra due to the 25-year-old alliance. Such was the domination of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray that BJP's grassroot organisational structure depended completely on Shiv Sena except in Nagpur.
But, the relationship changed after PM Modi came to power in 2014. Devendra Fadnavis taking charge as Maharashra CM after contesting the election alone and winning more seats than Shiv Sena also added to the tensions between Shiv Sena and BJP.
The Shiv Sena led by Uddhav Thackeray had recently announced that it will not tie-up with the BJP during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. With the announcement, Shiv Sena has maintained a hostile attitude towards the BJP but has neither broken its alliance or pulled out its MP Ananth Geethe from Modi's council of ministers.
After BJP's defeat in Kairana bypolls, the party faced flak for its big brotherly attitude towards its allies. Amit Shah swung into action and held meetings with alliance partners.
Amit Shah met Uddhav Thackeray at the latter's Mumbai residence on June 6 and claimed that the Shiv Sena may agree for a pre-poll tie up with the BJP. But the BJP's hopes crashed when the Shiv Sena abstained from voting during the no-confidence motion against Modi government.
Maharashtra BJP leaders said that Amit Shah and PM Modi seem to have decided that there is no possibility of an alliance.
Amit Shah, during the meeting with Maharshtra BJP leaders, is said to have directed teams of 25 party workers to be deployed at each polling booth in the state to reach out to voters. These activists are mandated to meet local voters and inform them about the NDA government's schemes and other achievements. These move is expected to bring voters to the polling booth on voting day.
Senior leaders have also been asked to compile lists of MLAs who are perceived to be performers and also monitor opposition MLAs who have a high probability of winning.
Top sources in the BJP said that Shiv Sena is playing hard ball as it wants the BJP to let it return as the head of the alliance in Maharashtra.
Sources claim that Uddhav Thackeray is not averse to a pre-poll alliance with the BJP but expects a quid pro quo for the assembly poll later in 2019. Shiv Sena wants a pre-poll alliance for Lok Sabha only if the BJP offers more seats to Shiv Sena.
"The lack of trust is deep now. Uddhav is ready to return but needs a face saver to convince his party cadres. He wants a seat sharing proposition where BJP gets more seats in Lok Sabha and Shiv Sena gets more assembly seats. He knows the stakes for Modi-Shah duo are high as they want to win Delhi again. But if Modi wins 2019 he may not like to be Sena's junior partner in Maharashtra."
A Shiv Sena leader said, "We want the alliance with BJP. That's possible if the two parties return to the pre-2014 seat sharing. For that, we should be given 155 seats."
BJP sources said that Shiv Sena cannot expect so many seats as it is a declining force.
In October 2014 assembly polls, BJP and Shiv Sena fought on their own. The BJP contested 260 of the 288 seats and won 122. Sena fought 282 but won just 63.
The BJP had refused to accept the pre-2014 arrangement of 171 seats for Shiv Sena and 117 seats for the BJP.
BJP now feels that the Shiv Sena was used to grabbing more seats but winning less seta. The two parties contested elections together for the first time in 1990. Shiv Sena had contested 183 seats but won 52. Compared to this, the BJP contested just 104 and won 42.