Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), partners in Maharashtra’s political landscape for 25 years, have occasionally tweaked the formula for sharing seats amongst themselves for assembly elections, but always kept the bigger pie for the former.
While the Shiv Sena enjoys a pan-state presence, its focus areas include Mumbai and adjoining Thane, parts of Nashik, Pune, Konkan and some parts of Marathwada. The BJP, on the other hand, has grown quickly in the Vidarbha and Marathwada, thanks largely to leaders such as Nitin Gadkari as well as late leading lights Pramod Mahajan and Gopinath Munde.
In the 1990 assembly election, the Shiv Sena contested 183 seats and won 52, while the BJP contested 105 seats and won 42. The formula was retained in the 1995 assembly election, when the alliance came to power for the first time in the state. The Shiv Sena won 73 seats while the BJP won 65.
The Shiv Sena-BJP alliance was in power between 1995 and 1999 with Manohar Joshi of Shiv Sena as its first chief minister and Munde of BJP as deputy chief minister.
In 1998, Joshi was replaced by fellow Sainik Narayan Rane. However, Rane got barely eight months at the helm, after Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray agreed to BJP leader Pramod Mahajan’s proposal to advance elections to coincide with the general elections of 1999.
The BJP, which was riding high on Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s popularity, hoped that the saffron alliance would return to power in Maharashtra. For the 1999 state assembly elections, the parties agreed on a new 171:117 formula. The Shiv Sena alone contested 161 seats and won 69, while the BJP won 56 out of the 117 it contested. The rest of the 10 seats from the Shiv Sena’s quota were given to smaller parties/independents backed by it.
Interestingly, there’s a numerological angle to this formula—the numerical addition of both figures (117 and 171) is 9—the number which Thackeray Sr. considered lucky. While the alliance mustered 28 seats (out of 48) in the Lok Sabha, the state-level gamble backfired, as it failed to get a majority in the assembly.
The alliance retained the 1999 formula of 171:117 for the 2004 assembly polls as well. However, the National Democratic Alliance lost power at the Centre and the partnership failed to win Maharashtra assembly too. The Shiv Sena, while finishing as the third largest party in the state, won 62 out of the 163 seats it contested, while the BJP managed a tally of 54 seats out of the 111 seats it fought. The rest of the 14 seats (8 from Shiv Sena and 6 from the BJP) were allotted to smaller parties.
For the 2009 assembly elections, the two parties stitched up a new 169:119 seat sharing arrangement. The Shiv Sena alone contested 160 seats (from its quota of 169) and posted its worst-ever performance since the alliance came into existence, winning only 44 seats. The BJP with 46 seats out of the 119 it contested, emerged as the third largest party in the state, and for the first time emerged as the more successful alliance partner among the two.