In what may widen the cleavages between the Shiv Sena- BJP and their allies in the Mahayuti (mega alliance), the two saffron parties are not in a mood to concede more that 25 seats to the four other fronts in the rainbow coalition for the state assembly polls due to be held in October.
Miffed at what they claim is the big-brother attitude of the saffron allies, leaders of the Swabhimaani Paksha, Rashtriya Samaj Paksha, Ramdas Athavale's Republican Party of India (Athavale) and Shivasangram are flexing their muscles to assert themselves in the Mahayuti, which was forged before the Lok Sabha polls and grabbed 42 of 48 seats.
BJP leaders admit that as compared to the general elections, where the allies had been given four seats (two for Paksha and one each for the RPI-A and RSP), striking an agreement for the assembly's 288 seats is a bit tougher. Adding to the troubles is the BJP asserting itself over Sena and seeking 127 seats, up from the 119 it contested in 2009. Maharashtra goes to polls in October.
"We will not be able to spare over 25 seats for our four allies," said a BJP leader, attributing his party's stance to the lack a state-wide network of these sub-regional players. He said these parties just want to ride on the Modi wave and don't have the ability to fight on their own strength.
While the Swabhimaani Paksha, which is led by Lok Sabha MP and farmer leader Raju Shetty is demanding 38 seats, dhangar (shepherd) community leader Mahadeo Jankar of the RSP and MLC Vinayak Mete's Shivasangram wants 40 and 12 constituencies respectively. Athavale, who is a Rajya Sabha MP and a Dalit leader is insisting on 20 seats, including four in Mumbai.
"Much of their tough posturing is to keep their activists in good humour. Eventually, they will acquiesce," the BJP leader said, adding that the Mahayuti needed to set its sights on the larger purpose of dislodging the Congress-NCP from power. He admitted that squabbling over seats could affect their perception among the voters and their electoral fortunes.
Moreover, the leader claimed that a survey conducted by the party had indicated that an overwhelming number of respondents wanted the same party at both the state and Centre.
The BJP is seeking eight more an increase in the seats contested by it and leaders point out that it was the Modi wave which enabled the Sena to sweep 18 Lok Sabha seats. The leader added that however, despite the BJP's demands, the Shiv Sena was taking a belligerent stand was not willing to concede over eight seats to its ally.