Mumbai (TIP): Late on September 17 night, the BJP drew up a list of 119 seats that the party would like to contest in next month’s state elections in Maharashtra. It is seen as a climb down from the 135 it was insisting on a few days ago. Since then, however, it has suffered reverses in by-elections giving ally Shiv Sena an advantage in tough negotiations over seat-sharing.

After a meeting at Union Minister Nitin Gadkari’s Mumbai residence on Wednesday night, attended by senior Maharashtra unit leaders, the BJP said it wanted its 25-year alliance with the Sena to continue. “We have sent a list of 119 seats to central leadership… 135 seats was just an estimate. We have communicated this to the Sena. Discussions will go on as far as distribution of seats is concerned,” BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar said. Earlier in the evening, sources said, BJP president Amit Shah had met central party leaders OP Mathur and Rajiv Pratap Rudy after the Sena, emboldened by the BJP’s losses in Tuesday’s by-elections, blandly stated that it will contest more seats than the BJP.

Sena MP Sanjay Raut said his party wanted the alliance to continue, but on its terms. “In Maharashtra, the chief minister will be from the Shiv Sena and we will contest more seats. There will be no change in that,” he said. The BJP earlier argued that its superior performance in the national elections four months ago has earned it the right to an equal number of seats to contest. It had suggested a formula that the two partners contest 135 seats each in the 288-member state Assembly and leave 18 for their smaller allies.

The Sena insisted that it must continue to be the senior partner in the state and contest more seats, at least 155. It said the by-election results vindicate its stand that the general elections will have no bearing on state elections. The stakes are high as the party with the most legislators will have the bigger claim to the Chief Minister’s post if the alliance wins.


The BJP’s losses in by-elections has further emboldened its partner in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena, to blandly state that it will contest more seats than the BJP in next month’s state elections. Sena MP Sanjay Raut today said his party wants the 25-year alliance to continue, but on its terms. “In Maharashtra, the chief minister will be from the Shiv Sena and we will contest more seats. There will be no change in that,” he said. This morning’s issue of the Sena magazine “Saamna” cautioned the BJP against taking “voters for granted.”

It praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying he should not be blamed for the by-election setback. But it also said, “The by-election results are a lesson for the Maharashtra elections,” adding, “Each election comes with its tides and tides change after every election. Vidhan Sabha elections cannot be fought on the basis of the Lok Sabha wave.” The sub-text was that the BJP cannot count on the “Modi wave” to win the Maharashtra elections. Shiv Sainiks across the state have backed their chief Udhav Thackeray in his tussle with the BJP over seat sharing and say they are gearing up to win 150 of the 288 assembly seats. “There is only one wave in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena wave,” said Sanjay Raut.

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