After three years of unrestrained attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP, the Shiv Sena is set to seal its alliance with the ruling party for the national election due by May.
BJP president Amit Shah and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray are likely to address a joint press conference to announce a tie-up that has taken several meetings and backroom negotiations even as the Sena kept up its public criticism of its long-time ally.
Sources say both parties have agreed to go 50-50 on seats for assembly elections in Maharashtra, due later this year. For the national election, the BJP is likely to contest on 25 seats and the Sena in 23. With 48 seats, Maharashtra sends the most number of lawmakers to parliament after Uttar Pradesh, which has 80.
The two parties have been allies for nearly three decades but the relationship soured over seat-sharing for the previous Maharashtra election in 2014, after which the two fought separately. The two were compelled to join hands to form government after the election results.
Since then, the Sena has not missed a single chance to target the BJP. Over the past few months, the comments grew increasingly belligerent as the Sena said it would either be the big brother in the Maharashtra equation or go solo. The BJP was more conciliatory, and repeatedly reached out to its estranged ally. Last week, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis visited Uddhav Thackeray at his home.
The Sena reportedly insisted on the chief ministerial post and wanted the same formula as in 1995, in which it contested 169 of 288 seats while the BJP was given a smaller share, 116. The Sena had then won 73 seats and the BJP, 65.
The Sena has apparently softened its stance on seat-sharing by agreeing to contest fewer seats than the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls. Sources say it is because of the realisation that both lose out without each other and could end up ceding ground to the rival NCP-Congress partnership. Besides, this time, the MNS (Maharashtra Navnirman Sena) of Uddhav Thackeray’s cousin Raj Thackeray may be walking across to the anti-BJP front even though the NCP and Congress disagree over including the party.