Mumbai: NDA constituent Shiv Sena feels that the assembly elections will be held in Maharashtra along with Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. The Sena, a ruling partner in the BJP-led Maharashtra and Central governments, is of the view that assembly and Lok Sabha polls will be held together in the country, a minister said on Tuesday.
“In all probability, the BJP will go for simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Maharashtra along with the assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh,” he said. Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh are due later this year, while in Maharashtra in October–November 2019. The minister claimed that the BJP was sending “feelers” to the Sena for a pre-poll alliance. He hinted that Sena would set stiff conditions, including staking claim to the post of Chief Minister, in lieu of helping the BJP in Lok Sabha polls.
“The BJP is sending us feelers for alliance. They want us to support them for retaining power in New Delhi and leaving Maharashtra to us. We will stake claim for the CM’s post and stick to the old seat-sharing formula,” he said. The minister said Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has directed the party cadres to be ready to contest the Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly polls in 2019 solo. He said Thackeray has already begun taking Lok Sabha constituency-wise review meetings at the Sena Bhavan in Mumbai. Thackeray today took review of Mumbai South Lok Sabha constituency.
Sena sources said the party is likely to finalise the names of its candidates for the Lok Sabha polls before the start of the Ganesh festival next month. The party is most likely to renominate 18 sitting MPs, sources said, adding that the Sena is also short-listing potential candidates for other 30 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra. Meanwhile, the minister said the political scenario for the BJP has turned hostile, following which the party has realised the need for allies. He claimed that BJP president Amit Shah is now in constant touch with Thackeray.
Addressing the Sena national executive earlier this year, Thackeray had announced that his party would contest all future elections on its own. Meanwhile, a senior BJP leader expressed hope that his party and the Shiv Sena will be able to forge a pre-poll alliance on the issue of Hindutva. “Alliance or not, the end result will be that the opposition Congress and NCP will suffer a setback,” he said. Meanwhile, in Mumbai, Sena is most likely to renominate its three sitting MPs Arvind Sawant (Mumbai South), Rahul Shewale (Mumbai South-Central) and Gajanan Kirtikar (Mumbai North-West), sources said.
The Sena has also short-listed the names of Mumbai Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar and Health Minister Deepak Sawant to take on Mumbai North-Central MP Poonam Mahajan of the BJP. The Sena has short-listed the name of its former mayor Shubha Raul who is likely to contest against Mumbai North MP Gopal Shetty of the BJP. In Mumbai North-East Lok Sabha constituency, the Sena has short-listed names of former MLA Shishir Shinde and MLC Neelam Gorhe against BJP’s Kirit Somaiya, source added.