Ending weeks of speculation and tottering on the brink, the ruling NDA constituents - Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party - finally sealed a pact for the ensuing 2019 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. Announcing the alliance formula, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said the BJP will contest 25 and the Sena 23, of the total 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
However, in the 288-member Assembly, after finalizing the share of other alliance partners, the two parties shall contest in the ratio of 50:50 for the remaining seats. "We have been together for over 25 years because of our shared ideologies and spirit of nationalism. In 2014 elections, owing to certain reasons we had split, but later for the past nearly five years we are in alliance in Maharashtra and at the Centre," Fadnavis said.
IANS had first reported the formula that was expected to be finalized this morning. BJP President Amit Shah and Sena President Uddhav Thackeray, along with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, former Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi and other senior leaders from both sides made the announcement at a joint media briefing late this evening.
Fadnavis said: "We are confident of returning to power both in Maharashtra and the Centre based on our exceptional performance for the past five years". He said the BJP has accepted all major demands of the Sena including expediting the process to construct the Ram temple in Ayodhya, farmers' issues and problems in implementing the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana to benefit the peasantry.
The CM said the demand for giving tax benefits for those in Mumbai living in flats of upto 500 sq. feet will also be considered. Terming it as a "new beginning" between the two parties, Uddhav Thackeray said the "bitter experiences" of the past five years would not be repeated in future, and both parties will work and fight "shoulder-to-shoulder".
Shah said it was the long cherished desire of party workers from both sides to work out an alliance, and finally it has been done successfully. He appealed to all workers that since the Sena is the oldest and most reliable ally, "to bury their bitterness of recent times" and start working for the elections with renewed vigour to ensure victory of the alliance in both Lok Sabha and Assembly.
Shah also reiterated that the BJP-Sena will bag 45 seats in the Lok Sabha in view of the performance of the government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, none of the leaders took any questions from the media, especially pertaining to the Sena's claim for the post of Chief Minister in the next Assembly elections.
Reacting to the developments, the Congress leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil alleged that the Sena was arm-twisted into forging the alliance under threats of Enforcement Directorate (ED) cases. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) state spokesperson Nawab Malik claimed that the Sena, which had called Prime Minister Narendra Modi "Chowkidar Chor Hai" in the past, is now allying with the same BJP.
(With inputs from agencies.)