Shiv Sena cedes big brother space to BJP

Mumbai: The Shiv Sena, which until now had been demanding 50 per cent of the 288 Assembly seats from the BJP, has yielded and meekly settled for less than half -- 120.

More important than the sweep stakes is the perception that the Sena has conceded the argument that the BJP is the dominant partner in the State.

Prime Minister Modi on Saturday had given an indication of what lies ahead when he said: "Uddhav Thackeray is my younger brother."

As per BJP sources, the Shiv Sena is set to get 110 seats and the BJP 160. The remaining 18 seats will be given to other alliance partners by the BJP and the Sena. This will then take the BJP tally to 169 and Sena’s to 119.

These seats will either be earmarked for alliance partners or the BJP and the Sena can field their own candidates. The erstwhile seat sharing formula of 135 seats each was seriously discussed but there was no meeting ground.

The Mahadev Jankar-led Rashtriya Samaj Paksh, the Ramdas Athwale-led RPI, the Vinayak Mete-led Shiv Sangram are the alliance partners of the BJP. And if that was not crowded enough, Bacchu Kadu-led Prahaar is also slated to join the alliance.

BJP leaders Chandrakant Patil and Girish Mahajan met Subhash Desai in his chamber after the cabinet meeting on Monday. They discussed the seat sharing in detail. After this meeting, the BJP's election management committee met and unanimously endorsed the current formula.

The Sena had earlier announced it would not accept lesser than 50 per cent seats. However, the current political situation does not favour such a seat sharing agreement. The BJP is in a stronger position and the Sena has to take a step back, if it wants to remain in power.

In 2014, the BJP broke its alliance with the Sena over seat sharing. At that time, the Sena was not ready to relinquish its 'big brother' status in Maharashtra, because till the Modi wave, the BJP had never won a majority in the State.

The 2014 assembly results finally put this argument at rest and the BJP assumed the big brother mantle in the alliance. The BJP had then won 122 seats and the Sena 62. Thus the BJP won almost twice the number of seats.

The BJP also won more than 30 seats which were traditionally Sena's, while the latter won seven seats that traditionally belonged to the BJP. During the negotiations, the basic premise was that both will retain their winning seats, but the Sena could not prevail upon and ended up giving up 30 seats.

While speaking to media on Monday, Sena chief, Uddhav Thackeray, in a lighter vein, said, the alliance will be finalised in next day or two. “Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and I will discuss the seat sharing and will take a final call. The alliance may happen or may not happen."

Sena sources indicated that the party will try to bargain for more seats in the high-level meeting between Uddhav and CM.

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