Mumbai: The Shiv Sena in Maharashtra is in a dilemma as many of its members believe their party will fare disastrously if it contests alone in next year’s general election.

A large number of the party’s Lok Sabha members are in favour of a pre-poll alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at least for the parliamentary election, even though party chief Uddhav Thackeray has repeatedly stated that the Sena would go it alone. Two Shiv Sena Lok Sabha MPs and a Sena minister in Maharashtra said, asking not to be identified, that an internal assessment has revealed bleak prospects for a majority of sitting MPs in the absence of an alliance.

“The assessment suggests that not more than seven to eight current MPs will retain their seats if we contest independently. Even the BJP’s performance will dip if we contest against each other. There is a sentiment among most sitting MPs that we should have an alliance with the BJP at least for the Lok Sabha polls," said a Sena MP, requesting anonymity. He said the MPs have conveyed this sentiment to party president Thackeray.

“Uddhav saheb is aware of the situation and he will take a call on alliance with the BJP. We have urged him to treat Lok Sabha and assembly elections differently assuming they are not held together," the Sena MP said.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls which the Sena fought in alliance with the BJP, it won 18 seats while the BJP won 23. The Modi wave swept the state as the BJP won 23 out of the 24 seats it contested while the Sena won 18 out of 20. Another BJP-Sena ally Swabhimani Paksha which earlier this year left the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, won a seat, taking the NDA tally to 42 out of 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra.

In January, Thackeray asserted the Sena would contest all elections in future on its own, indicating its days with NDA are getting over. The Sena has continued to be a part of the NDA and the BJP-led ruling coalition in Maharashtra since then, though it spares no opportunity to criticise the Modi government and the Devendra Fadnavis government in the state.

A Sena minister in the Maharashtra cabinet, who did not want to be named, said the internal assessment conducted in September revealed that it would be able to retain only 7 to 8 of the 18 seats in the absence of an alliance.

“Modi saheb retains much of his popularity as the Prime Minister and the Lok Sabha elections will be fought on his continuance as the Prime Minister. We will stand to benefit from this goodwill for him if we have an alliance with the BJP. There is definitely some sentiment of anti-incumbency but it is very unlikely that we will get a decent chunk of anti-BJP or anti-Modi votes since we are a regional party. We don’t stand to gain in a situation where the Congress-NCP have an alliance and we are contesting independently," said the Sena minister.

Another Sena MP, who requested anonymity, said at an internal meeting last week, Thackeray directly asked the MPs if they were in favour of an alliance with the BJP. “We kept quiet as more and more sitting MPs are getting similar feedback from their constituencies that things won’t be easy for us without an alliance with the BJP," the Sena MP said.

Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis recently said both parties would stand to lose if they contested independently. On Friday, NCP chief Sharad Pawar told reporters in Mumbai that the BJP and the Sena may form an alliance for the Lok Sabha polls but not for the Maharashtra assembly election. The Congress and NCP are at an advanced stage of alliance talks for the Lok Sabha elections and the NCP chief met with his Congress counterpart Rahul Gandhi in Delhi last week. A state NCP functionary said the NCP was demanding an equal number of seats from the Congress. “But these are early days. We don’t know yet if other like-minded parties will join us and demand seats," said the NCP functionary requesting anonymity.

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