Lok Sabha Seat-sharing Talks a Cliffhanger After Splits and Realignments in Maharashtra

March 04,2024

The BJP-led ruling alliance and the opposition bloc are united in their belief that winnability is the only formula for seat-sharing in Maharashtra, which sends the second-highest number of 48 MPs to the Lok Sabha after 80 from Uttar Pradesh.

Maharashtra, the country’s most industrialised state and its premier FDI magnet, however, has seen a political churn since 2019, with the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena breaking its long-time alliance with the BJP, and then suffering a split, just like the Sharad Pawar-founded Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

A major chunk of the Shiv Sena is now with Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and it is allied with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The NCP also met a similar fate as Ajit Pawar walked away with a legislative majority last year and is also part of the ruling alliance. The splits and realignments have made seat-sharing an arduous task with claims and counter-claims, leaders from the ruling and opposition parties said.

The BJP, which along with the then undivided Shiv Sena won a cumulative 41 out of the 48 seats in 2019, is looking to better the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) tally to 45.

In contrast, the opposition Congress will seek to put behind its disastrous 2019 outing when it won just one seat. The seat-sharing issue is being discussed with the central leadership, Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrashekhar Bawankule told PTI.

The opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), comprising the Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT), Sharad Pawar faction of the NCP and the Congress, is wooing the Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, but the grandson of legendary social reformer Babasaheb Ambedkar is yet to make a formal announcement about his allegiance.

As per sources, the BJP is expected to contest more than 30 seats, while the Ajit Pawar-led NCP, which has sought 10 seats, is likely to get four. The Shinde-led party wants to contest 18 seats, the number the undivided Shiv Sena won in the 2019 polls.

Amol Mitkari, spokesperson of the Ajit Pawar-led NCP, said his party wants to contest 10 seats, including Baramati in Pune. A senior BJP leader said discussions were underway at the top level of the party leadership, adding that it would contest more seats than it did last time.

Speaking about seat-sharing, Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut said the MVA has completed discussions and an announcement will be made soon by the top leadership of the constituent parties.

However, Congress leaders said the discussion continues on seats that it was traditionally contesting as part of its alliance with the undivided NCP but were won by the Shiv Sena in the 2019 polls. The MPs from these seats are now part of the Shinde faction.

The Congress is ready to contest a maximum of 20 seats, while the NCP-Sharadchandra Pawar could field candidates in nine to 10 constituencies. A senior Congress leader told.