After notching up its best ever tally in the Lok Sabha polls from Maharashtra, Shiv Sena is looking at an increased quota of cabinet berths in the soon-to-be-formed Narendra Modi-led government. Sena leaders expect an increased ministerial quota considering the state assembly polls in state later this year. Incidentally, Maharashtra is the second target contributor of seats (42) to the NDA's kitty after Uttar Pradesh (73).
In 1999, Sena, which had 15 MPs, had three ministerial berths, which covered crucial portfolios power, environment and forests, heavy industries and ministers of state for finance, and later, party's Manohar Joshi was elevated as Lok Sabha speaker. This time, Sena contested 20 seats and won 18, losing one constituency (Hingoli) with a wafer-thin margin.
"We expect at least four ministerial berths," said a senior Sena leader, adding that this was necessary in view of the upcoming assembly polls. Sena is also looking at representation in the council of ministers from Mumbai.
The Sena leader said party chief Uddhav Thackeray, who will visit New Delhi to attend a lunch organised for NDA MPs on Tuesday, may discuss cabinet formation with the BJP high command and Modi.
After BJP, Sena is the second-largest party in the NDA and is seen as BJP's natural ally, with their tie-up based on the common agenda of Hindutva.
Sena and BJP tied up in 1989, after an electorally unsuccessful attempt in 1985, and the saffron allies, who had one shot at power in the state, from 1995 to 1999, have stayed together despite the highs and lows in their relationship.
"NCP had just eight MPs but three ministerial berths (in the outgoing Congress-led UPA government)," pointed out a Sena Lok Sabha MP, adding that, hence, Sena's share too needed to be increased considering its higher numbers.
Anant Gite, who was the Union power minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee's cabinet and won a keenly contested battle against water resources minister Sunil Tatkare from Raigad; Anandrao Adsul (Amravati), minister of state for finance in the erstwhile NDA government; Chandrakant Khaire, Aurangabad MP; Shivajirao Adhalrao Patil (Shirur); Bhawana Gawli (Yavatmal-Washim); and Rajkumar Dhoot, Rajya Sabha MP and industrialist, may be among the probable Sena representatives in the cabinet.
Rajya Sabha MP Anil Desai, who plays a pivotal role in the Sthaniya Lokadhikar Hakka Samiti, which played a major role in implementing Sena's sons-of-soil agenda in public undertakings, may also be a dark horse.
While Sena rode to success on the anti-incumbency and pro-Modi wave, antipathy of young and first-time voters towards the established order and "reverse polarisation" in the majority community, the icing on the cake for the party was the near electoral annihilation of rival MNS, whose candidates lost their deposits in all 10 seats.
However, Sena sources admit that the party risks being pushed into the role of a junior partner in the saffron alliance by a resurgent BJP under Modi. BJP leaders may try to corner Sena in the run-up to the assembly polls and extract a larger share of winnable seats for a greater part of the power pie and the chief minister's chair.