The Hindu (Mumbai)

BJP faces stiff challenge from allies Sena, NCP in wrangle over 48 LS seats in Maharashtr­a

- Shoumojit Banerjee

A grievance letter posted on X (formerly Twitter) on March 4 has given a peek into the tussle within the ruling Mahayuti alliance, comprising the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Eknath Shindeled Shiv Sena, and Ajit Pawar’s Nationalis­t Congress Party (NCP), for the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtr­a ahead of the general election.

As per the latest developmen­ts, the Sena is demanding 22 seats, the NCP has staked claim to at least 10, while the BJP is intent on fighting 30 seats.

The missive from BJP leader Harshavard­han Patil to party colleague Devendra Fadnavis alluded to a ‘sinister’ campaign by NCP workers in Indapur, one of the six Assembly constituen­cies that make up the Baramati Lok Sabha seat.

“Some officebear­ers from our allied parties are making objectiona­ble statements against me in rallies in Indapur. I am worried about my safety as they are threatenin­g not to allow me to roam around Indapur during elections,” stated the letter, urging Mr. Fadnavis to take “a firm stand” to nip “hooligan tendencies” in the bud.

The letter has come at a time Mr. Shinde, the Chief Minister, and his deputies, Mr. Fadnavis and Mr. Pawar, have been professing to take their ‘tripleengi­ne government’ forward under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision.

A former fourterm MLA and Cabinet Minister, Mr. Patil was once a major figure in the State Congress. He joined the BJP after losing the Indapur seat in the 2019 Assembly election to Dattatreya Bharne, an Ajit

Pawar loyalist.

It is widely believed that Mr. Pawar’s wife, Sunetra Pawar, will be the Mahayuti candidate for the Baramati seat. Given the acrimony between Mr. Patil and Mr. Pawar, it is doubtful whether the BJP leader will campaign wholeheart­edly for Ms. Pawar.

Tug of war

There is also a tug of war over the Maval Lok Sabha seat in Pune, held by twotime Sena MP Shrirang

Barne. While both the NCP and the Sena have staked claim to the seat, the BJP, too, with its increased strength in the region, wants Maval for itself.

There is intense speculatio­n that Mr. Barne, somewhat disaffecte­d with the Sena, could contest on a BJP ticket.

“Does this mean that the BJP has no candidates of its own? Why is it considerin­g giving a ticket to an imported candidate by slighting its own loyalists?” said Sunil Shelke, the sitting NCP legislator.

Caught in a tussle

In the RatnagiriS­indhudurg and Raigad Lok Sabha constituen­cies in the verdant Konkan region, the BJP is facing a challenge from the Sena.

Last week, Sena leader Ramdas Kadam protested after BJP leader and Union Minister Narayan Rane staked claim to the RatnagiriS­indhudurg seat.

“This has been the BJP’s constituen­cy for years. Nilesh [Mr. Rane’s son and former MP] has been contesting from here. It is the BJP that should get it,” Mr. Narayan Rane said.

Mr. Kadam shot back: “Does the BJP want to finish every other party and live alone? I do not want to create any controvers­y within the Mahayuti, but what is happening is not right.”

In Raigad, Mr. Pawar’s righthand man, Sunil Tatkare, is the sitting MP. However, given the intense BJPSena antipathy here, it will be hard for the NCP to rely on either ally for help.

Last week, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant visited the Konkan and claimed both the seats for the BJP.

“There is a very strong demand that the candidates for both seats should be from the BJP. I will certainly convey the wishes of the cadre to the high command,” Mr. Sawant said.

Irked by the comment, Minister Uday Samant, who belongs to the Sena, said, “Pramod Sawant has claimed the Raigad and RatnagiriS­indhudurg seats for the BJP. In the same spirit, I shall tour Goa in the coming days and the Sena will be staking claim to South Goa.”

Both the Sena and the BJP have also staked claim to the Sambhajina­gar and Amravati Lok Sabha seats in the arid Marathwada and Vidarbha regions, respective­ly.

Sambhajina­gar has been the undivided Sena’s bastion since the late 1980s. “There is no question that the Sena will be contesting the Sambhajina­gar seat. It will fall in our kitty,” said Shinde camp Minister Sandipan Bhumre of the Sena.

His remarks came amid Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to Sambhajina­gar to assess the BJP’s poll preparedne­ss.

In Amravati, a tussle is on between Sena leader and former MP Anandrao Adsul and incumbent MP Navneet Rana, who won as an Independen­t in 2019, but supports the BJP.

In Nanded in Marathwada, the BJP’s induction of former Chief Minister and Congress leader Ashok Chavan is resented by the sitting BJP lawmaker, Prataprao Chikhalika­r, who is worried about losing his candidatur­e in the Lok Sabha election.

‘BJP’s daunting task’

According to senior political analyst Vivek Bhavsar, the Mahayuti alliance is a mixture of several vested interests not always in harmony with the greater good of winning the polls.

“Eknath Shinde is fighting to justify his existence. Ajit Pawar’s fight is with his uncle Sharad Pawar, and he wants to cement his claim over the NCP stronghold­s in the sugar belt of western Maharashtr­a. By absorbing these two ambitious leaders and sidelining its loyalists, the BJP faces a daunting task of convincing its cadre that its political decisions, of forming the government with Mr. Shinde and inducting Mr. Ajit Pawar, were the right ones,” Mr. Bhavsar said.

 ?? FILE PHOTO ?? Maharashtr­a Chief Minister Eknath Shinde (Shiv Sena) flanked by his deputies Devendra Fadnavis (BJP) and Ajit Pawar (NCP).
FILE PHOTO Maharashtr­a Chief Minister Eknath Shinde (Shiv Sena) flanked by his deputies Devendra Fadnavis (BJP) and Ajit Pawar (NCP).

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