Fadnavis told reporters in Nagpur that he could “give it in writing that there won’t be simultaneous Lok Sabha and assembly polls in Maharashtra". The chief minister’s remarks follow speculation in political circles about a possible recommendation to the governor by the state cabinet on Friday seeking dissolution of the state assembly.
What strengthened the speculation was a meeting scheduled between Fadnavis and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray at the latter’s home in Mumbai on Thursday evening. “The speculation doing rounds that we will take a decision tonight to recommend dissolution of state assembly is baseless," Fadnavis said.
Previously, too, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah and Fadnavis have ruled out simultaneous polls in Maharashtra and insisted that the BJP-Shiv Sena government will complete its full term which ends in October.
Last month, the two parties renewed their pre-poll alliance for both Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha polls. In the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP will contest 25 of the total 48 seats in Maharashtra and the Shiv Sena will contest the rest. The two have decided to contest an equal number of seats in the assembly polls after they have accommodated smaller allies. Maharashtra has 288 assembly seats.
A senior BJP leader and minister in the Maharashtra government, who did not want to be named, said the Fadnavis-Thackeray meeting was to “fine-tune seat sharing" between the allies. “We are allies and it is only natural for us to keep meeting. We have announced a seat-sharing formula, but some specifics need to be worked. Some seats are going to be swapped between us and that could be one of the points of discussion," the minister said.
One of the Lok Sabha seats the Shiv Sena is keen to contest is Palghar near Mumbai which the BJP won in 2014 and again in a 2018 byelection following the death of sitting BJP MP Chintaman Vanga. The Shiv Sena, which contested the bypoll against the BJP and came second, has reportedly claimed the seat.
“This could be the additional seat that we have agreed to set aside for the Shiv Sena," the BJP minister added. In the 2014 polls, the BJP had contested 26 seats and the Shiv Sena 22. Similarly, there are quite a few assembly constituencies, as per BJP and Shiv Sena functionaries, which are likely to be swapped between the two allies in 2019. In 2014, the BJP had snapped its alliance with the Shiv Sena and contested 260 seats, while the Sena contested 282.
“We will most likely contest all 122 seats and the Sena will have a legitimate claim over 63 seats it had won in 2014 though there could be some give and take. These are early days for assembly, but we need to start talking so as to quell rebellion and keep cadres on both sides happy, which won’t be easy," said the BJP minister quoted above.