As the dust of the Lok Sabha elections has yet to settle, a storm is already brewing within the BJP-led alliance in Maharashtra. Nationalist Congress Party (Ajit Pawar) leaders are indignant, accusing the BJP of delivering a grave insult by relegating them to a mere four Lok Sabha seats. The fires of discontent are stoked further as they now assertively demand a share of 80-90 seats from the 288-seat bounty in the State Assembly elections due in October this year. BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis responded that his party will contest maximum seats as a “big brother” in the alliance.

At a recent party meeting, senior leader Chhagan Bhujbal of the NCP (Ajit Pawar) ignited a political firestorm by demanding that their faction contest 80-90 seats in the upcoming Maharashtra State Assembly elections. Bhujbal later clarified his remarks, stating that he did not intend to stir controversy but wanted to remind everyone that the BJP’s leadership in Delhi had promised the Ajit Pawar faction a significant number of seats during their alliance talks.

Seat Sharing

The controversy gained momentum as leaders from both Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde faction) and the BJP challenged Bhujbal’s assertions. In response, Bhujbal pointed out that the BJP, with over 100 MLAs in the current assembly, is in a strong position and can afford to share seats. He emphasised that his faction is merely seeking a fair allocation: “Our only demand is that we should get appropriate seats,” Bhujbal asserted to reporters.

Nationalist Congress Party (Ajit Pawar faction) leader Chhagan Bhujbal

Nationalist Congress Party (Ajit Pawar faction) leader Chhagan Bhujbal

The discord in the Ajit Pawar faction is further complicated by dissatisfaction with the LS seat-sharing arrangement, where only four seats were allocated. Among these, Sunetra Pawar, wife of Ajit Pawar, contested from Baramati and Archana Patil, wife of BJP MLA Rana Jagjitsinh Patil and close relative of Ajit, from Osmanabad. For the Shirur seat, the faction had to nominate a candidate from the Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde faction), leaving Sunil Tatkare as the sole NCP leader from Raigad to contest in the LS elections under the Ajit Pawar banner.

BJP’s Stand

Ajit Pawar faction leaders say that as the party has compromised on the number of the Lok Sabha seats it contested, it should get a major chunk of assembly seats in the seat-sharing formula. As NCP’s demand created restlessness among BJP and Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde), Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis clarified that “Leaders of all the three parties of Mahayuti will sit together to decide a proper seat-sharing formula for assembly polls and seats will be allotted accordingly. BJP will get the maximum seats as it is the biggest party. However, our allies will be given due respect in the seat allotment,” Fadnavis told reporters recently.

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis | Photo Credit: ANI

Political pundits say that the assembly seat sharing within the BJP-NCP (Ajit Pawar) and Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde) alliance depends greatly on the outcome of the Lok Sabha elections.

In the 2019 assembly elections, the BJP fielded candidates in 122 seats, securing victories in 105, while its ally at the time, the undivided Shiv Sena, contested 63 seats and won 56. The undivided NCP also performed strongly, capturing 41 seats.