Buoyed by the party's spectacular showing in the Loka Sabha elections, several office-bearers of Maharashtra BJP today said the party must not play second fiddle to alliance partner Shiv Sena in the Assembly elections which are due later this year.
State BJP chief Devendra Fadanvis told the party workers at a meeting here that grievances regarding the Shiv Sena would be addressed at an appropriate forum. "Shiv Sena has been our friend in good times as well as bad times. Just because our party has done well in the Lok Sabha elections, it would not be correct to call for breaking of the alliance," he said.
He was responding to speeches by some leaders who said that Sena had not allowed BJP to grow in the state in the last 25 years. "Shiv Sena (traditionally) contests 174 seats and BJP only 114 (in the Assembly polls). The difference is too big and our party should get an equal share," senior BJP leader Madhu Chavan said.
Some speakers wanted the party to end the alliance. "Don't underestimate us. The party leadership should trust the workers and contest all the 288 seats and we will create history," a BJP leader said.
Another leader said while BJP treated Sena as an elder brother, the sentiment was not reciprocated.
Chavan said Shiv Sena tried to make "a bonsai" of BJP, and this must not be tolerated. Another office-bearer said the "business of partnership" should be on equal terms. Fadanvis, while responding, said the party had taken note of the genuine sentiments of the workers.
"Our strike rate is better. Every candidate of our party polled more than five lakh votes in Lok Sabha," Fadanvis said, but also added that alliance with Sena was based on ideology. "Our aim should be to rid Maharashtra of Congress-NCP rule through the Mahayuti (the opposition alliance which includes Sena and BJP)," the state BJP chief said.
Senior BJP leader and Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said the state leadership should prepare a vision document for Maharashtra ahead of the polls. He also asked the state BJP to support the Central government to turn the dismal situation in the country around within three months. "We are now in the ruling party and challenge is to behave responsibly," he said.
Gadkari also asked the party to avoid debate on who will be Chief Minister or ministers post-polls. "Only think about how to free Maharashtra from Congress-NCP who have created a record in corrupt governance," he said. Bringing the saffron alliance to power would be the true tribute to the late leaders Gopinath Munde, Pramod Mahajan and Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, Gadkari said.
State BJP would be forming booth committees ahead of polls by July 15. Between July 15 to August 15, 36 union ministers, four Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled states and 18 ministers from Goa, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh would be touring Maharashtra for the campaign, it was announced.
Each union minister will handle five Assembly constituencies.