BJP's Maharashtra target hangs in balance due to indecision on candidates

Chief minister Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena and Ajit Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party had launched their campaign a month ago

Mumbai: With less than a month left for the last phase of polling in Maharashtra, the BJP-led Mahayuti is still struggling to reach consensus over six Lok Sabha seats in the state. Several alliance leaders are now skeptical about achieving their target of winning at least 45 Maharashtra seats because of the delay in announcing candidates.

The alliance of BJP, chief minister Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena and Ajit Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party had launched their campaign a month ago by setting a target of winning 45 out of 48 seats. The voting in Maharashtra will conclude in the fifth phase on May 20 when 13 seats will go to polls. Out of these 13 the alliance is yet to declare candidates on six seats including three Mumbai seats due to differences among the alliance partners.

Chief minister Eknath Shinde on Saturday announced the candidature of state minister Sandipan Bhumre for the Sambhaji Nagar Lok Sabha constituency, which was also under dispute. The voting in Sambhaji Nagar will be held on May 13 and the last day for filing the nomination is April 24. A triangle contest is expected in the city, earlier known as Aurangabad. Shiv Sena UBT has fielded two-term MP Chandrakant Khaire while sitting MP Imtiyaz Jalil is contesting as AIMIM candidate.

“The Shiv Sena UBT and AIMIM candidates have already started their election campaigns. Mr. Bhumre’s campaign will start now. It is the same situation for the six seats where the opposition candidates have started campaigning while Mahayuti is yet to decide its candidate. This could prove to be our disadvantage,” a senior alliance leader said.

The alliance is yet to break a deadlock on Mumbai South, Mumbai North West, Mumbai North Central, Thane, Nashik and Palghar seats.

Thane is the home turf of CM Shinde and Shiv Sena has always contested the seat as a member of Sena-BJP alliance. However, this time the BJP is putting pressure on its alliance partner to give up the seat as sitting MP Rajan Vichare has remained with the Uddhav Thackeray faction.

A Shiv Sena leader said, “Mr. Shinde is not going to give the Thane seat to BJP. We have already given the Ratnagari-Sindhudurg seat. We have accepted several suggestions in the interest of Mahayuti. But the Thane seat has been Shiv Sena’s stronghold for almost four decades now and we are not going to compromise on it.”

The decision on Nashik has been delayed because the Shiv Sena, which has sitting MP Hemant Godse, is not willing to give the seat to the NCP. Similarly, the party is fighting with the BJP over Palghar and two Mumbai seats while the BJP is still trying to find a suitable candidate for Mumbai North Central seat.

Senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal on Friday announced that he is withdrawing from the race for the Nashik seat because of the delay in taking the decision. Mr. Bhujbal said that Union home minister Amit Shah wanted him to contest the Nashik seat, but the alliance could not announce his candidature even after three weeks of discussions.

“The MVA declared its candidates (Shiv Sena UBT’s Rajabhau Waje) three weeks ago and he has started campaigning. The more time we take the more loss we will face.This deadlock had to be broken and therefore I decided that I will not be the candidate. Now the Mahayuti must announce its candidate at the earliest,” Mr. Bhujbal said while announcing his decision.

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