The 25-year-old alliance between the BJP and the Shiv Sena was on the verge of collapse Friday with both parties adopting a tough stance on the issue of seat-sharing for the Oct 15 state assembly elections, party officials said.
Both the warring partners are holding a series of crucial meetings during the day to take a final call on continuing the alliance.
“It’s on the verge of breaking – Only a formal announcement is awaited,” a senior state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, requesting anonymity,said.
Similarly, a senior Shiv Sena functionary hinted that the alliance “is over”, but the party has decided to wait for further developments before declaring its stand.
However, a ray of hope emerged Friday morning for the feuding partners with union Minister Nitin Gadkari meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi over the issue.
Gadkari is expected to arrive in Mumbai Friday afternoon with a compromise formula intended to save the alliance.
The crux of the issue is primarily seat-sharing, besides projecting Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray as the next chief ministerial candidate.
The BJP is demanding both parties contest 135 seats each with the remaining 18 in the house of 288 being allotted to other smaller alliance partners.
The Shiv Sena’s latest offer is 119 seats to the BJP, including the share of the other smaller partners, which the BJP rejected outright.
There has also been no commitment from the BJP on who the next chief ministerial candidate will be or from which party.
After BJP president Amit Shah gave indications in his public rallies in the state Thursday that the “BJP will form the next government” without mentioning its allies, the party reportedly served a 24-hour ‘ultimatum’, which Shiv Sena dismissed late Thursday night.
The Shiv Sena also resolved after an emergency meeting that any final decision on the issue – to snap ties or to continue the alliance – would be left to Uddhav Thackeray’s discretion.
Both parties were fully prepared to start filing nominations of candidates from Saturday without finalising the contentious issue of seat-sharing between them.
The sharp tussle between the allies has suddenly changed the political scenario with optimism brewing in the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party camps over their prospects in next month’s elections.
As the BJP-Shiv Sena remained at daggers drawn, smaller partners like the Republican Party of India (A) and Swabhimani Sanghatana squirmed with apprehensions over their fate and future if the matter remained unresolved or the alliance collapsed.
The leaders of the smaller partners have been making desperate attempts to persuade both Shiv Sena and the BJP leadership to work out a compromise solution to the crisis.