The Shiv Sena indicated today that it plans to play hardball with big brother BJP as the counting of votes progressed in the Maharashtra assembly elections. As the leads indicated that the party is likely to deliver a standout performance, the Sena indicated that it will insist on the 50:50 formula during government formation. "It will be a BJP-Shiv Sena government. There is no two opinion about it," senior party leader Sanjay Raut said, dismissing rumours of a possible alliance with the Congress and Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party.
"We got the full mandate. Seats may increase of decrease in an election. We will talk to Uddhav ji, he will then speak with the Chief Minister. And what was agreed before the election, 50-50," he added.
Sources indicated that the Sena can even insist on dividing the 5-year tenure of the government, and occupy the Chief Minister's office for two-and-a-half years.
The party, which contested on 126 seats, is leading on 58, a shade lower than the 63 it won in 2014 when it contested all 288 seats of the state.
But what gives it confidence to demand equal terms is the performance of the BJP. But leads show the BJP is leading on around 100 seats, way below the 122 it won in 2014.
Ahead of the state polls, buoyed by the sweep in the national elections, a section of BJP leaders insisted that the party ditch the Sena and go it alone. It was Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis who insisted on continuing the alliance. Later, the idea also received support from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
But the BJP had not allowed the 50:50 seat share formula, which the Sena had wanted. Allowing it to contest only on 126 seats, the party had kept the lion's share of 150 seats for itself after a gruelling, and sometimes bitter, negotiation. As a sweetner, the Sena was also offered the post of Deputy Chief Minister.
While 300 Sena workers and more than 20 of its corporators resigned in protest against the deal, Uddhav Thackeray downplayed the matter. "It doesn't matter who is the younger or older brother. What matters is the relationship between brothers," Mr Thackeray had said.
The Sena and the BJP had come together after a brief breakup when in 2014, neither succeeded in getting majority on its own. The Sena since had been a vocal critic of the BJP-led government's policies at the state and the Centre.