Mumbai: NCP president Sharad Pawar on Tuesday said he is not surprised by the seat-sharing pact announced by sparring allies BJP and Shiv Sena. The electoral understanding between the saffron siblings was a forgone conclusion, the former Union minister told PTI.
Overcoming their strained ties, the BJP and the Uddhav Thackeray-led party Monday announced to contest the ensuing Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly elections together. “There is nothing new in their announcement of fighting polls together,” Pawar said. He said the BJP and the Sena, which have been alliance partners for over 25 years, were expected to contest jointly.
“It is just that they had been vocal (against each other) only in the last few years, but they were expected to contest jointly,” Pawar said, referring to frequent squabbles between the two ruling allies since the NDA came to power at the Centre and in Maharashtra in 2014. Sena is the oldest constituent of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). As per the electoral pact announced Monday, the BJP will contest 25 seats and Shiv Sena 23 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra.
The two parties will contest an equal number of seats, after allotting allies their due share of segments, in polls for the 288-member state Assembly, due this year. On the status of the pre-poll understanding between the NCP and the Congress, Pawar said they are yet to arrive at consensus on “one or two seats”. Pawar, however, did not name the seats concerned.
Both the parties are trying to bring in like-minded parties like Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh of Prakash Ambedkar on board the proposed grand alliance, to take on the NDA. Pawar said the NCP and the Congress will hold their first joint rally in Nanded on Wednesday, which will be attended by AICC general secretary in-charge for Maharashtra Mallikarjun Kharge and senior leaders from both the parties.
Another joint rally of both the parties will be held in Beed in Marathwada on February 23, he said. A Congress leader said both the parties are yet to reach an agreement on swapping Aurangabad and Ahmednagar Lok Sabha seats, currently held by the Sena and BJP, respectively. “The Congress is willing to field a candidate from Ahmednagar seat. But the NCP is not relenting as it feels it enjoys more influence in the constituency (than Congress),” the leader said. In 2014 elections, the Congress had fielded its nominee from Aurangabad and the NCP from Ahmednagar.
NCP sources said both the parties have finalised their candidates, adding talks with potential allies are underway. “The formal seat-sharing will be announced only after discussions with potential allies like Prakash Ambedkar’s Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh and Raju Shetti’s Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana,” the sources said. The Congress and the NCP had contested 26 and 22 seats respectively in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. However, hit by the Narendra Modi wave, the NCP was restricted to four seats while the Congress could bag only two seats. Both the parties contested the state assembly polls held in October 2014 separately. In 2018, the NCP improved its tally in Lok Sabha by one seat after winning the Bhandara-Gondia bypoll.