Mumbai: Overcoming their strained ties and grandiose declarations of going solo, the BJP and Shiv Sena Monday announced a seat-sharing pact for the ensuing Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Maharashtra.
The announcement was made by BJP president Amit Shah and Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray at a joint press conference in the night, shortly after Shah flew in from Jaipur.
The BJP will contest 25 seats and Shiv Sena 23 of 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra.
The two parties will contest an equal number of seats, after allotting allies their due share of segments, in polls for the 288-member state Assembly, due this year.
Both Shah and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said public sentiment was that the two parties should come together.
Shah recalled his earlier remark that the BJP and Sena will together win at least 45 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra.
Crores of workers of BJP and Shiv Sena wanted the alliance between the two parties, Shah said. The Sena is the oldest ally of BJP, he added.
The Ram temple has been the common thread for alliance between BJP and Shiv Sena and has to be built at the earliest, Thackeray said.
BJP and Sena are parties with national ideology which have come together in wider public interest, Fadnavis said. In principle, both the parties are pro-Hindutva, he added.
The alliance renewal announcement comes after several hard-hitting editorials in Sena mouthpiece Saamana blasting the BJP in general and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular.
At a public rally last year, Thackeray had declared that his party won't have a tie-up with the BJP. The party now appears to have given in to the 'persuasive skills' of Amit Shah and Fadnavis.
"We rotted for 25 years in the alliance with the BJP," Uddhav Thackeray had said last year, ruling out any pact with that party.
Announcing the seat-sharing, both the parties stressed that Hindutva was the common thread between them.
Fadnavis said the two parties with national ideology "have come together in the wider public interest".
Fadnavis also announced that the Nanar refinery project proposed in coastal Konkan will be shifted to a place acceptable to people.
Shah said it was the wish of the workers of the BJP and the Shiv Sena that the two parties joined hands for the elections.
"The two parties have respected that public sentiment and we have decided to contest the Lok Sabha, Assembly polls together," Fadnavis said.
"In principle, both the parties are pro-Hindutva," he said. Parties with national ideology have come together in wider public interest, he added.
The two parties have decided to join hands keeping in mind how they can work in the broader interest of farmers and the poor, he said.
"Uddhav ji has insisted on construction of Ram temple.
And the BJP completely supports it," Fadnavis said, referring the Shiv Sena chief as 'margdarshak' (mentor) of his government.
On his part, Thackeray said there was anger and dissent among the people over the Pulwama attack. Thackeray said he expected the government to show to Pakistan that India was not a weak nation.
He also thanked Fadnavis for deciding to shift the proposed Nanar refinery project.
Shah said the two parties decided to contest the polls together after detailed thinking.
"This is not just a political alliance, but one based on principles. The two parties have fought for decades on the issues of Ram temple, national security and cultural nationalism and also attained victories. I am sure we will win again," he said.
"I thank and congratulate Uddhav ji for ending the differences with a large heart," he added.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the two parties along with their allies had won 42 out of the 48 seats. The BJP had bagged 23 seats, while the Shiv Sena had emerged victorious in 18 constituencies.
The two parties had contested the October 2014 Maharashtra Assembly election separately and had come together to form government in a post-poll arrangement in December that year.