New Delhi/Mumbai: In a bid to salvage its 25-year-old alliance with Shiv Sena, the BJP on Monday evening sent a fresh proposal to the latter, offering it to contest on 130 seats in the forthcoming assembly polls in Maharashtra.
The development was confirmed by BJP's in-charge of Maharashtra, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, who was quoted as saying to the media that his party has now offered 130 seats to Shiv Sena with respect to the upcoming assembly polls in the state.
“We have now offered 130 seats to the Shiv Sena. It is a very liberal proposal and we hope that Shiv Sena will agree to it,” Rudy was quoted as saying to reporters.
This came hours after Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray put a new offer on the table and offered 126 seats to the BJP.
According to a news agency, Thackeray called up two senior leaders of BJP and told them that Shiv Sena is now ready to give 126 seats, but the BJP wants 130. However, nothing has been finalised as yet.
Shiv Sena had on Sunday offered to cede the BJP only 119 out of the total 288 seats in Maharashtra Assembly. BJP has climbed down to 130 seats from its earlier demand for 135.
Earlier in the day, reports had claimed that Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah telephoned Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and urged him that the alliance must continue. However, Shiv Sena later denied receiving any call from the BJP.
Insisting that the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance must continue, Shah had reportedly urged Thackeray to rethink on Shiv Sena's "impractical" proposal to BJP in which Shiv Sena refused to yield beyond 119 seats to the coalition partner.
State BJP poll in-charge Om Mathur, meanwhile, arrived in Mumbai this morning to hold talks with the Shiv Sena chief in this regard. Rudy also expressed hope that both parties would continue to move ahead on the same path and a positive outcome will be reached shortly.
Rudy said that the BJP discussed the ongoing situation in Maharashtra in depth during yesterday's Central Election Committee meeting that was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several other top leaders. "During the meeting, Maharashtra was discussed in detail. The general consensus was that we want an understanding, we want the alliance to continue and it's a 25-year-old strong alliance," Rudy told a news agency.
"We have made an appeal to the Shiv Sena for a mutual understanding. We are very hopeful that a positive outcome will be there shortly," he added. The last date for filing nominations is September 27.
Both in Delhi and in Mumbai, BJP and Sena shortlisted candidates for next month's polls but refrained from announcing the list, awaiting the outcome of last ditch efforts to avoid split in the alliance.
"It was decided that efforts should be made to ensure that there is a respectable and mature understanding on seat-sharing and the alliance is kept intact. BJP wants to go to the polls along with Sena and other alliance partners," BJP in-charge for Maharashtra Rajiv Pratap Rudy on Sunday told reporters after the marathon meeting of the party's Central Election Committee (CEC).
The CEC is understood to have shortlisted 120 candidates out of a list of over 180 candidates that were discussed. This was followed by an informal meeting of the BJP Parliamentary Board to discuss the strategy in the wake of Thackeray pegging seats for BJP at 119.
Both the meetings, which went on for over three hours, were attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, who spent some time together separately, and other leaders.
Shah is believed to have spoken to Thackeray in the midst of the BJP meets, but there was no official word on it. Some BJP leaders made it clear that the party was ready to fight the polls on its own if Sena is unrelenting.
Hours after Thackeray's tough talk on seat-sharing, BJP told its old alliance partner that it was the duty of both the parties to continue the tie-up and sort out issues instead of going through the media, in remarks directed at the Sena chief.
Squabbling over seat-sharing showed no signs of resolution during the day with both the alliance partners waiting to see who will blink first. BJP said there was "nothing new" in Sena's final offer and hoped seat-sharing issue can be mutually settled.
In Mumbai, Shiv Sena had on Sunday said this was "the final attempt" to break the logjam over seat-sharing. The Sena chief also reminded Modi that late Sena supremo Bal Thackeray had backed him in the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat riots. "Today I am making a final attempt to ensure that the Mahayuti (grand alliance of opposition parties) stays intact. Sena had initially asked for 160 seats. But now we are ready to part with nine seats. Shiv Sena will fight on 151 seats, leaving 119 seats for BJP. The remaining 18 seats will be given to our allies," Thackeray said.
Suggesting a way out to end the standoff, BJP leaders of opposition in Maharashtra Assembly and Legislative Council Eknath Khadse and Vinod Tawde said the party wants Sena to re-negotiate on such seats that they never won in the last 25 years, so that they are not given to the NCP-Congress alliance on a platter in the upcoming polls.