Seat sharing among partners in the rival political alliances for the forthcoming assembly polls in Maharashtra has become a bigger issue than it was in the Lok Sabha elections only a few months ago.
In fact, the tussle between the senior partners in both the secular and the saffron combines has been so severe that smaller parties are afraid they will not get a look-in and some are beginning to believe they may not have any option but to fight it out on their own.
The differences between the Shiv Sena and the BJP surfaced during the Lok Sabha elections over a suggestion to include the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.
This intensified after the Narendra Modi-led sweep spurred the BJP to claim a larger number seats which could also land it the post of chief minister in case the alliance wins a majority.
Even if the ruling Congress-NCP combine is not favoured to return to power, the competition for seats has hardly been any less intense. The NCP has been claiming more seats from the Congress on the basis of the anti-Congress swing in the Lok Sabha polls continuing.
Amid this chaos at the top, the small parties are staring at irrelevance as they have been almost ignored.
“Until the big brothers finalize the major share between them we can’t negotiate our seats which will come from two different quotas,” said Arjun Dangle, spokesperson of the Republican Party of India (A), one of the five partners in the saffron alliance.
RPI (A) has sought to contest from 20 assembly constituencies of the total 288, but the senior partners laugh off the demand in private. Miffed at the attitude of the big partners, party chief Ramdas Athawale went ahead and met BJP president Amit Shah in Delhi on Thursday to seek his assurance that the RPI (A)’s demand for a 15% share would be granted.
The three other partners – Raju Shetti's Swabhimani Paksha, Mahadeo Jankar led-Rashtriya Samaj Paksha and Vianayak Mete's Shiv Sangram – and similarly anxious. Shetti is even reported to have threatened to break away amid the deadlock.
The smaller parties also fear that they could be alloted “tougher” seats and with a shorter time to prepare their job could get more difficult. “Unlike the bigger parties, the regional parties have limited resources. We need adequate time to prepare and campaign as our constituencies have difficult terrain. If things are not sorted out soon, we would breakaway,” said one leader.
In the democratic front, allies like the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi face a similar predicament. The proposal by the Samajwadi Party for a broad secular alliance has not yet been evaluated.
A Congress leader said, “Only after we finalize the seat-sharing formula will we decide from whose kitty the smaller partners would be obliged.”
Shaina NC, BJP spokesperson, admitted there had been a delay but she was positive that the matter would be sorted out shortly. “The matter would be resolved once the election dates are announced. The decision would be taken by the election committee which is scheduled to meet in September,” she says.