Maharashtra Election 2019: Shiv Sena plays hardball

Mumbai: The Assembly poll results in Maharashtra have thrown up various political permutations and combinations. In the fluid scenario, controversies have begun to rear their head, with the Shiv Sena demanding a greater share of the political pie.

Even more disconcerting for the BJP is the demand that there should be a revolving door for the post of chief minister.

At a press conference in the city on Thursday, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray declared that the party was keeping all options open, a sentiment which should serve as a shocker for the BJP.

Even though the BJP has emerged as the single largest party in the state (105 seats), it is not in the same pole position, as before.

In fact, it may have to cede more ground to ally Sena, having fallen short of the majority mark of 145 seats. The Sena is set to bag 56 seats but intends to play hardball with its partner.

Result: The Sena is negotiating for a 50:50 power-sharing formula, which it claims, was a pre-poll understanding. This also means Sena will have its own chief minister for two-and-a-half years, like the BJP.

Clearly, the allies can easily form the government. However, Jayant Patil, the state Nationalist Congress Party chief, has bunged a spanner into the works by saying, in politics, there are no untouchables and the Congress-NCP alliance could form a government with the Sena. But the NCP chief Sharad Pawar has rejected this possibility.

The buzz has obviously irked and unnerved Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who has slammed all such speculation about the Sena forming the government with the help of the NCP-Congress and has claimed that the saffron alliance is intact.

"Only the grand alliance of the BJP-Sena will form the new government. I have talked to Uddhav Thackeray and we have already decided what to do," said Fadnavis, replying to a question.

In the current scenario, the BJP will have to bend before the Sena, a throwback to their rule in 1995-1999, when the Sena founder, Bal Thackeray, ensured his party had the upper hand.

It was only in 2014 that the BJP got its own CM for the first time, after winning 123 seats; but then it had kept the Sena at bay for a month. Only after the Sena yielded and agreed to share the political space, did it relent.

But the Sena was not satisfied with the portfolios and the cabinet berths it was allocated. However, it ensured that its displeasure was evident to the public by constantly sniping at Modi and the Fadnavis government. Now, it can savour sweet revenge.

The Sena had been hinting at extracting its pound of flesh even before counting day. The numbers game has now given them this chance. When asked which party would get the chief minister's post, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said, "It is time to remind the BJP about the formula arrived at when BJP chief Amit Shah visited my home. We had decided on a 50:50 formula."

While campaigning for Aaditya Thackeray, Sena MP and spokesperson Sanjay Raut had already made it clear that Aaditya would be on the sixth floor of Mantralaya, occupied by the CM and his deputy.

Varun Sardesai, Aaditya's cousin had tweeted that Amit Shah had promised the CM post to the Sena for 2.5 years. The Sena is now likely to pressure the government to do the needful and also demand a 50 per cent share in the cabinet. It will be interesting to see to how the BJP handles these demands.

Can have truck with NCP & Congress: If the BJP rejects its demands, the Sena can always exercise the option of going with the Congress and the NCP.

In this case, the NCP may join the government and the Congress will provide outside support to the coalition. These three parties can easily cross the halfway mark of 144, as the Congress and the NCP have crossed the 100-seat threshold.

This combination will instantly help the Shiv Sena secure the CM post for five years, a dream of its party founder Bal Thackeray. In such a scenario, defectors from the Congress and the NCP, who have bitten the dust in this election, may do a ghar-wapsi. As for those who won, they can always cosy up with their original party leaders.

BJP has options too: Anticipating that the Sena will drive a hard bargain, the BJP has already started roping in rebels and smaller parties into their alliance. Fadnavis has already approached 15 legislators, including 11 Independents and winners from smaller parties.

If these 11 Independents, mostly BJP and Sena rebels, join the BJP, its tally will reach 120 and this will give them leverage over the Sena. "The Shiv Sena has won just over half the number of seats as the BJP.

But they are demanding an equal share of the pie. How can they do so, when their strength is half of ours?'' asked a senior BJP leader.

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