Mumbai (The Hindu): Underlying tensions between saffron allies Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to fore on Friday, with both parties calling off talks that had begun a day earlier. However, both sides maintained that a final call on stitching an alliance together could still be taken at a later stage by senior party leaders.
Earlier in the day, the Sena reacted sharply to statements by BJP MP Kirit Somaiya, and announced that there will be no further discussion on the alliance. Mr. Somaiya had referred to the Sena as a ‘mafia’ party.
In turn, Sena leaders accused the BJP of doublespeak and said a decision on an alliance could only be taken by party president Uddhav Thackeray and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. BJP leaders, on the other hand, accused the Sena of ‘talking through the media’ instead of communicating concerns at delegation meetings.
Delegations on both sides were expected to exchange a list on Friday of seats they wish to set aside for their candidates. However, the talks did not go further after Mr. Somaiya’s remarks, which created flutters in political circles. Reacting angrily, Shiv Sena leader Anil Desai said, “We have informed Uddhavji of their doublespeak and object to the unnecessary statements by their leaders at a time when the Chief Minister himself is talking of forging an alliance. This is hypocrisy.”
Senior BJP leaders said they were unable to understand the Sena’s sudden ‘u-turn’, But BJP minister and delegation member Vinod Tawde questioned why junior Sena members were picked to participate in the discussions. “Till now, we were on track for an alliance, as far we were concerned. Now, we hear from the media they have called off the talks. What went wrong?” Mr. Tawde said.
The talks, expected to conclude by January 21, were lacking in direction due to a disagreement on 15 seats, and a 50:50 seat-sharing formula, which the BJP was insisting on. Earlier, the BJP had even raked up the ‘transparent corporation’ demand from the Sena, asking the party to sign a join pact on cleaning up the corporation, once in power. Sources said this appeared to be a mere ploy to obtain a moral high ground in case the talks faltered at any stage.
An alliance talks between the Congress and NCP has already been called off, indicating that the saffron alliance may not come through as well. Electoral trends in the past have shown that when the Congress and NCP go to the polls separately, the Sena-BJP alliance doesn’t come through.
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