The Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party, locked in a stiff negotiation battle, are on verge of sealing the deal for the Maharashtra polls due in October and are likely to announce their seat sharing agreement by this weekend.
While the Shiv Sena wants to split the seats equally between itself and the BJP and thereafter giving the remainder among smaller alliance partners, the BJP wants to play the big brother. The two parties haven't yet reached the final seat-sharing settlement, but have broadly reached a "consensus formula" which will "enable" them to come out with a seat-sharing agreement by this weekend, says a BJP source based out of Mumbai.
The Maharashtra Assembly has 288 seats. The BJP has 122 members while the Shiv Sena has 63. The BJP's Maharashtra unit wants both parties to work on a seat-sharing agreement, where the BJP will retain 122 seats and the Sena will retain its share of 63 seats. The remainder can be distributed equally between the two parties after giving a few seats to smaller alliance partners such as the Republican Party of India (RPI).
BJP's Maharashtra unit chief Chandrakant Patil and state cabinet minister Sudhir Mungantiwar have already met the Sena leadership and proposed the formula which Udhav Thackeray's party has declined. Following this, the negotiations were held at the highier level where a senior Union minister has played his part, say sources.
Shiv Sena has demanded nothing less than 130 seats, while Republican Party of India (RPI) chief Ramdas Athawale wants only 10 seats, sources said.
It's an open secret that the pre-poll alliance between the two parties before 2019 general election was delayed because Shiv Sena wanted an assurance from the BJP on the tentative seat sharing for the Maharashtra election.
The two parties had then decided to fight both the general and the state elections with equal seats. But with BJP's thumping victory this May with 303 seats, the political reality has changed much across India. Another NDA ally Nitish Kumar is finding it increasingly difficult to have a strong bargaining power in Bihar, which will go to the polls next year.
Meanwhile, Amit Shah's latest statement has somehow rattled the Sena ranks where he said, "Whether something happens or not, the BJP will come back to power in Maharashtra with a majority. The NDA government will win more than two-thirds of the seats."
But leaders privy to the negotiation taking place in Mumbai insist that Shah's statement should be read as the last-minute "pressure tactic" to get a better deal and "nothing more than that". But a source maintains that it has been made amply clear to the Shiv Sena leadership that the Chief minister's post will go to the BJP with Devendra Fadnavis again at the helm. The BJP, the source adds, has also told Shiv Sena's top bosses that the arrangement for a deputy CM's post is out of question.
Maharshtra will go to the polls on October 21 and the result is scheduled to be out on October 24.
ALSO READ | Shiv Sena firm on contesting 135 seats
ALSO READ | BJP has offered Sena 106 seats in Maharashtra
Watch | Kurukshetra: Watch what's going to happen in upcoming assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana