After making it clear to the Shiv Sena that it had no choice but to ally with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) if it is serious about Hindutva, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis will lead a party outreach in all 48 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state in the next two months.

“We are deploying a two-pronged strategy. We want the Shiv Sena to ally with us for both Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections. But we won’t be just be making appeals for alliance. We will also go to the voters and tell them what this government has done in the last four years. We need to be ready to contest all 48 constituencies if the need arises," said a senior BJP leader and state minister, who did not want to be identified.

He said the BJP was confident the Shiv Sena would “see the larger point about Hindutva". “The Shiv Sena itself has started creating the excuse of Hindutva for the alliance. After criticizing Modiji and BJP for four years, it needs to find an excuse now to go back to the BJP and there cannot be a better pretext than Hindutva. That is the reason why Uddhav saheb is going to Ayodhya," said this BJP leader.

But the BJP also wants to keep its cadres battle-ready in case Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) form an alliance, and the Shiv Sena goes solo. Talks between Congress and NCP have progressed, and the two have agreed over 38 seats. A Maharashtra Congress leader said talks were on about the remaining 10. “These are seats where we have some disagreements and demands for swapping some of them between us. But, in principle, we have agreed to form an alliance and these disagreements would be sorted out," the Congress leader said. About BJP and Shiv Sena, he said, “They will come together before elections. There is no alternative."

The BJP strategy is guided by favourable internal surveys about its performance in Maharashtra in the next elections and also by various opinion polls conducted by private agencies including Marathi news channels and newspapers. The BJP minister said almost all surveys carried out by “independent" agencies had given favourable ratings to the BJP. “In fact, the ratings for the chief minister have increased and they show Modiji is more popular in Maharashtra than he was in 2014. The findings more or less confirm our internal surveys which say that a majority of our 23 MPs have performed well. At the same time, the Shiv Sena’s internal survey has painted a very grim picture for the party MPs," said the BJP minister.

A state BJP functionary said Fadnavis had succeeded in conveying the message to the Shiv Sena that Hindutva “bound the two parties together". “We will keep repeating this line till it becomes a yes or no question for the Shiv Sena. It is fine to go to Ayodhya and demand Ram mandir. Ahead of the elections, Shiv Sena will be forced to take a stand for an alliance on Hindutva or against it. As the chief minister has said, we will go to Matoshri’s door (Uddhav Thackeray’s residence) for Hindutva any number of times," said the BJP functionary requesting anonymity.

At the same time, the BJP would list out the achievements of the Fadnavis government during this outreach, BJP functionaries said. In each Lok Sabha constituency, BJP cadres, ministers, MPs and MLAs would reach out to voters, with elaborate publicity material on various government schemes and programmes. “We need to have candidates ready in all 48 constituencies," said the BJP functionary.