A mere three months after walking off with an unexpected, yet spectacular, showing (in Lok Sabha polls), it looks like the Shiv Sena-BJP-led six-party coalition (Mahayuti) is at sea over crucial issues like seat-sharing and kicking off the assembly poll campaign. The election is due in October.
While Congress has announced the launch of its campaign from Sept 1 in Mumbai, senior Mahayuti leaders admit to a sense of drift having set in due to factors like lack of coordination and inability of the constituents to strike a (seat-sharing) compromise.
Sena and BJP contested 169 and 119 seats, respectively in 2009 assembly elections.
Mahayuti claiming 42 of state's 48 Lok Sabha seats and leading in 243 (of 288) assembly segments gave a much-needed boost to the fortunes of Sena and BJP for the assembly polls. However, BJP is now demanding that the seat-sharing formula be reworked in its favour as Sena got its best-ever tally of 18 Lok Sabha MPs due to the Narendra Modi factor, something that Sena resists.
Smaller parties in Mahayuti, namely MP Raju Shetti's Swabhimaani Paksha, Dalit leader Ramdas Athavale's Republican Party of India, Mahadeo Jankar of Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSP) and MLC Vinayak Mete's Shivasangram resent the "big-brother attitude" of the two senior allies and the lack of momentum on seat sharing. Despite having claimed over a third of the assembly seats, unless Sena and BJP arrive an early consensus on seat sharing, coming to power wouldn't be an easy task, they point out.
"Its a tamasha," said a senior BJP leader, admitting that the sniping between the allies was sending the wrong message. "We will have to depend on the Modi wave," he said, admitting that their other allies were likely to stay back in Mahayuti despite Sena and BJP not willing to concede over 25 seats to them only because of lack of viable options.
"Shiv Sena is not in a mood to concede more seats and is trying to prolong the discussions. They are unwilling to attribute their success to Modi," said the BJP leader.
Sena leaders admit that there is unease in the organisation over increasing assertion by BJP, which had hitherto played the part of the younger partner.
"Uddhavji is working on strengthening the organisation. He may be purposely trying to defer the talks to a date closer to the polls to prevent BJP from walking off with more seats," admitted a source.
BJP MP Gopal Shetti, in the meanwhile criticised Sena for inducting leaders from other parties into the alliance. "In Lok Sabha polls, we led in constituencies represented by Congress and NCP veterans. It was people's mandate against these leaders. Then why are these politicians being inducted into the front, he asked, adding that this had led to counter-claims on seats and prolonged the seat-sharing exercise.
And despite the presence of many CM hopefuls in their ranks, BJP and Sena have also decided against projecting any face formally. "Who can be projected?" questioned a BJP leader, adding, "The party that wins more seats would get CM's post."
In 2009, BJP, which contested lesser number of seats, won 46, and Sena won 45 (including an independent). This was largely due to the presence of Raj Thackeray-led MNS, which ate into Sena's natural catchment, Maharashtrian and first-time voters.