Rumours of talks between BJP’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi and NCP chief Sharad Pawar notwithstanding, Shiv Sena and BJP leaders have stressed that they are unwilling to accommodate the NCP in the saffron alliance to safeguard their anti-incumbency space in Maharashtra.
Senior BJP leader and former deputy chief minister Gopinath Munde has claimed that these reports had been floated by the NCP to put pressure on the Congress in its seat-sharing exercise.
The Congress wants to reduce NCP’s share from 22 seats to 17 seats of the state’s 48 Lok Sabha constituencies. The Sena too is wary of any pre-poll truck with Pawar.
“I am very clear, the NDA consists of five parties in Maharashtra,” said Munde, who positions himself as a strong anti-Pawar force. “We will not enter into an understanding with the NCP for the Lok Sabha polls... However, if parties other than the Congress or the NCP are willing to join us, we are ready,” he added.
“Munde and Gadkari are individuals, however, the BJP will take a decision as a political party. The Maharashtra BJP and all alliance partners are insistent that there should be no truck with the NCP,” Munde added, when questioned about whether former BJP national president Nitin Gadkari, who is seen as his rival in the party, was pushing for the understanding.
A senior Sena leader said it will not be “sensible” for them to tie up with the NCP. Both BJP and Sena expect to benefit from the anti-incumbency against the NCP, which has eight MPs in Maharashtra.
An editorial on Saturday in the Sena mouthpiece Saamna sarcasti called Pawar “extremely secular.” The Sena said he had “aversion of Hindutva.” “He had a similar hatred earlier for Sonia Gandhi and her foreign origins... the truth is that the UPA government under Manmohan Singh is a sinking ship and when a sink ships, the rats first try to jump out,’ the editorial said, adding that the NDA would not accommodate such “rats” at least in Maharashtra.
The Sena-BJP’s latest allies – farmer leader Raju Shetti’s Swabhimaani Paksha and Mahadeo Jankar’s Rashtriya Samaj Paksha which have a base in Western Maharashtra have based their politics against the NCP.
Six of Sena’s 11 MPs have contested against the NCP while the number of NCP MPs who fought against the Sena stands at four. The NCP is also demanding seats like Raigad, Yavatmal-Washim and Kolhapur which are contested by the Sena and has managed to wean away Sena MP Anand Paranjape (Kalyan). Moreover, Sena dissidents have found the NCP to be a natural port of call than the Congress due to factors like its aggressive second-rung leadership the advantage of being in power.