Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has said that his party wants to contest 152 seats in the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly election, leaving the remaining 136 for the BJP. His proposal is not very different from the one that the party put forward in 2014. At that time, the Shiv Sena wanted 155 seats for itself and left just 130 for the BJP. That had led to the two parties going their separate ways.
The significant difference this time is that the Shiv Sena wants a pre-poll pact in place whereby it would have its nominee as the chief minister, should the alliance win a majority. The Sena seeks through a prior contract in Maharashtra what HD Kumaraswamy secured through post-poll circumstances in Karnataka.
It has sensed that the BJP needs allies, and that Amit Shah called on Uddhav Thackeray despite the Shiv Sena's unhelpful conduct — carrying out tirades against Narendra Modi, ridiculing the Devendra Fadnavis government in almost all public meetings and snatching the BJP's candidate for the Lok Sabha by-election in Palghar. The party has realised that it has leverage.
Thus, the long-standing convention that the party winning the higher number of seats gets the chief minister's post, is sought to be given a go-by. That is, heads or tails, the party runs the government as the senior partner. Apparently, Uddhav Thackeray's calculation is that his case would not be as pathetic as that of Kumaraswamy.
It is anybody's guess as to what could transpire by the time nominations are filed next year. The Shiv Sena may believe that it can take the BJP to the brink and secure a deal in future by teasing it within the government as a partner now. Or, it can decide to go it alone at the last minute. The outcome of the Lok Sabha polls a few months before the Assembly election could well determine the dynamics.
Thackeray's demand of 152 seats for itself plus the chief minister's post seems to be based on the premise that the Sena does not want to be a junior partner in an alliance, come what may. Nevertheless, it has stayed in the present government in Maharashtra as a junior partner, mainly because being in power (or sharing it) helps in preparing for polls. Through its aggressive stance within the present government, it seems to assume that it will be firewalled against anti-incumbency.
Since the Shiv Sena and BJP's first tie up in 1989, the parties have had more or less a set pattern of seat allocation — the former getting 171 seats and the latter 117, give or take a few during the period of filing of nominations. This always gave the Sena an edge – it won 52 seats to the BJP’s 42 in 1990, 73 to the BJP’s 65 in 1995, when the alliance formed the government.
The Shiv Sena is possibly considering the likelihood that the BJP may remain numerically ahead in an alliance and is hedging its bets. The set pattern till now has been that the BJP won less than the Sena each time except in 2009. However, this hides the fact that the BJP had a higher success rate.
This ability to win more seats, and the Modi wave of 2014, had made the BJP adamant because, though it wanted an alliance, it craved to become the senior partner in the government.
Interestingly, the Sena under Uddhav Thackeray’s command won 63 seats against all odds, and despite the absence of Bal Thackeray.
Updated Date: Jun 11, 2018 10:42 AM