Allies BJP and Shiv Sena, often seen taking potshots at each other, finalised a seat-sharing pact for 2019 Lok Sabha elections on Monday. The deal was reached after BJP president Amit Shah met Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray at his residence in Mumbai.
The BJP will contest 25 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra while Shiv Sena will fight on the remaining 23.
“Shiv Sena and the Akali Dal are among our oldest allies. We had some differences but they are a thing of the past now. Our alliance will win at least 45 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra,” said BJP chief Amit Shah.
Uddhav Thackeray said the Shiv Sena and the BJP are old allies. “People have seen the Shiv Sena and the BJP for the past 30 years. For 25 years, we stood united, there was confusion for five years. But like Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, I still provided guidance to government from time to time,” Thackeray was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the pact saying the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance will continue working for the well-being of Maharashtra.
In 2014, the BJP contested 24 Lok Sabha seats and the Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena 20. Four seats went to other allies, the Swabhimani Paksha of Raju Shetty, the Republican Party of India of Ram Das Athawale and the Rashtriya Samaj Paksha of Mahadev Jankar.
The Sena-BJP alliance fell apart in the assembly elections held in 2014, after the BJP refused to accept the Sena as the senior partner in the state. They fought separately and the BJP fielded candidates in 260 out of 288 assembly seats; the Sena contested 282 seats. The former won 122 and the latter 63.
They came together after the election to form the government in Maharashtra, but the relationship has remained strained.
The parties contested separately in the subsequent local body elections and the BJP dominated the local polls, winning 15 out of the 27 big city corporations in the state. The Sena retained control of Mumbai but managed to win just two more seats than the BJP in the city.
The assembly election is supposed to be held six months after the Lok Sabha polls this summer.
Shiv Sena, the ruling party’s cantankerous ally, had hinted to the BJP that it expects at least half the Lok Sabha and assembly seats in the state if the partnership between the two is to continue, leaders familiar with informal negotiations between the two parties said. The Sena had also told the BJP about its preference for simultaneous polls.
The Sena had announced in January that it would go solo in the next Lok Sabha and state elections and has since then built pressure on the BJP on issues such as the Ram temple and demonetisation.