Even as Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Monday deployed his senior leader Sanjay Raut to Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu’s sit-in protest Delhi, BJP president Amit Shah was busy in chalking out a strategy to bring its oldest ally on board ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly polls. According to a report in The Indian Express, BJP president Amit Shah dialed Uddhav Thackeray on Monday to finalise a seat-sharing well ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
Although the Sena has been very critical of the BJP leadership in the last few months, it continues to share power with the saffron party both at the Centre and Maharashtra. The IE report said that Thackeray told Shah to return to the 1995 formula to seal the seat-sharing agreement. In 1995, he Shiv Sena had contested 169 seats while the BJP had fielded its candidates on 116 seats. The Maharashtra Legislative Assembly has 288 chairs. At that time, the parties had secured 138 seats (Shiv Sena 73 and BJP 65). The two had formed a coalition government under Sena leader Manohar Joshi’s leadership. The coalition was backed by a few independents.
BJP agreeing to Thackeray’s demand will firmly put the Shiv Sena in the driving seat. The Sena will have authority to choose the Chief Minister if the two parties gain majority in the Assembly. While Shah is keen on stitching a deal for the Lok Sabha, the priority for Uddhav is the Assembly and wants to negotiate for a package that involves both.
Shah’s call to Thackeray comes a week after JD(U) vice president and poll-strategist Prashant Kishor visited Thackeray in Mumbai to broker a deal between the two parties. It is believed that Kishor had offered to get Shiv Sena 28 of 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra.
The BJP has time and again said that it wants to contest the elections with Shiv Sena but the latter has been adamant on going alone. In the previous assembly polls held in 2014, the two had contested elections separately but joined ranks later to gain majority in the House.
The latest move by Shah comes as the BJP struggle to keep its partners intact. In last one year, the party lost TDP, RLSP, Asom Gana Parishad and PDP.