Saffron alliance in Maharashtra hits new low; BJP mulling to sail alone in Assembly poll

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Senior BJP leaders with Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray
With the Assembly election round the corner in Maharashtra, demands within State unit of BJP to dump old ally Shiv Sena and fight the elections all alone are growing day by day.

In a meeting of the BJP's extended executive committee in Andheri (West) in suburban Mumbai on Tuesday, party workers asked the State leadership to take immediate steps to break 25-year-old alliance with Shiv Sena and contest Assembly election on all 288 seats. "We are always made to play second fiddle before the Shiv Sena. The BJP is getting choked in the State due to the alliance with the Sena. It's time to call off the alliance and fight the polls on our own," said BJP legislator Madhu Chavan was quoted as saying in reports.

BJP and Shiv Sena have been poll partners in Maharashtra since 1988 and have fought all polls together since then. In 2009 State Assembly polls, the BJP contested 119 seats while the Shiv Sena fielded its candidates in 169 constituencies. Earlier, in the two Assembly polls, the BJP had contested from 117 seats, while the Sena 171. The alliance has ruled the State from 1995-99.

This is not the first time, the alliance is hitting rough water, but in the past too, at several occasions, both parties wrangled over some of the issues. Be it consensus on voting in favour of Prathiba Devi Singh Patil or Pranab Mukherjee for Presidential post where Shiv Sena opted not to follow BJP's footprint or BJP's terms with MNS, the alliance has always hit a roadblock. But, the growing chorus among the party cadres has forced State leadership to mull options of growing alone in the State election.

Thumping victory in Lok Sabha poll:

Emboldened by its show in recently concluded Lok Sabha polls, the party cadre is confident of sweeping Assembly election in Maharashtra too. Riding on 'Modi wave', the alliance gave a spectacular performance in the Lok Sabha polls as they won 42 out of 48 seats. The alliance got 2.50 crore votes in Maharashtra, which was close of 52 per cent. Out of which BJP got 1.33 crore voters, which was 28 per cent and Sena received one crore votes (21 per cent). This makes BJP confident of smooth sailing in the State election too due to which it has asked for lion's share in a seat-sharing arrangement.

BJP and Shiv Sena have been poll partners in Maharashtra since 1988

BJP not willing to play second fiddle to old ally:

This could be the foremost reason of growing clamour among BJP ranks to field its candidate from all 288 seats in the State. It is clear indication that the party isn't willing to play second fiddle to its aggressive ally Shiv Sena in Maharashtra anymore. Some are of view that alliance with Sena has dwarfed the political growth of party in the State.

Other feels that it was necessary for the party to put up an aggressive front before Shiv Sena, which has been claiming the Chief Minister's post openly. The BJP had been playing second fiddle to the Sena because Sena's chief Balasaheb Thackeray dominated the political landscape in the State. But with Thackeray's death and emergence of Modi, the BJP now wants to take charge in Maharashtra.

CM post, bone of contention:

The old allies have been at loggerheads for quite some time, especially after Gopinath Munde's death, over the Chief Ministerial post. While the BJP wants to projects one of its leaders as the Chief Ministerial candidate, Sena has already declared its party chief Uddhav Thackeray for the post. Through the slogans like 'Delhi mein Modi sarkar aur Maharastra mein Uddhav Thackeray sarkar' (In Delhi, there is Modi Government and in Maharashtra it will be Uddhav Thackeray's Government), Sena is putting its claim on CM post. While BJP's poster saying, "Rashtra Jinkley Apan; Maharashtra Hi Jinki Apanach (We have conquered nation. Now, we will conquer Maharashtra) shows that the party is in no mood to buckle down to Sena's claim.

Over-confident BJP workers:

After humiliating defeat in Lok Sabha poll, Congress's rout in upcoming State election is imminent. The reason may be anti-incumbency wave or the corruption marred decade old stint of the Congress-NCP alliance. This has further strengthened BJP workers aspirations to sail all alone in the election.

Important to mention here that both parties are part of 'Mahayuti' in Maharashtra which also comprises three other parties namely Raju Shetty's Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, Mahadeo Jankar's Rashtriya Samaj Paksha and the Ramdas Athawale-led Republic Party of India (RPI).

The apparent crack in the alliance is not a good sign for both the party as this is the rare opportunity for both of them to win the State poll with clear mandate. Rather than creating differences in the 25-year-old alliance, both parties should work towards preparing themselves for the poll. The two parties should learn lesson from their three consecutive defeat since 1999. The split in alliance will only give another opportunity to Congress which has almost given up all hopes to win the State election.

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