State polls: Smaller parties in command in Maharahtra as alliances split

A day after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) parted ways with its ally of 25 years, the Shiv Sena, the party started wooing smaller ally Republican Party of India led by Ramdas Athawale, with offers of cabinet berth at the centre and governor's post.

But, with the Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray cozying up to his estranged cousin and political rival, Raj Thackeray, it seems the tide could turn against both the BJP and the Congress after the two alliances split.

With just 18 days to go before the state assembly polls and with uncertainty all around, the divorce could prove fatal for both the ruling Congress-NCP alliance and the BJP.

But, for the smaller parties in the old Grand Alliance that included the Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party, their divorce has proved to be a windfall.

With no assurance of a win, the Shiv Sena and the BJP are courting their lesser alliance partners now with better offers.

"Both the BJP and the Sena have offered us a central cabinet berth if we support them," a seemingly confused Athawale said.

The Sena stands ready to offer the lone cabinet berth it has in the Narendra Modi government to Athawale's RPI if he aligns with the Shiv Sena in the 15 October assembly elections.

Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has also indicated the Republican Party a place in a future Sena government in Maharashtra besides deputy chief ministership for Athawale.

The BJP is offering the RPI the governorship of a state, a share in power in the state government besides a central cabinet berth for Athawale.

"We are demanding 25-30 seats for the assembly polls. My party will take a final decision by tonight or Saturday," Athawale said.

The Republican Party leader is torn between the Sena and the BJP, which split on Thursday after clinging together for 25 long years.

Besides the Republican Party, the other smaller parties in the Saffron alliance - the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS), the Rashtriya Samaj Paksh (RSP) and Shiv Sangram are expecting to contest more seats in the coming assembly elections.

The BJP is said to have offered the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, led by MP Raju Shetti, 18 seats while the Rashtriya Samaj Paksh and Shiv Sangram are expected to get four-six seats each.

"With the constraints on seat-sharing evaporating after the breakdown in the alliance, the Shiv Sena and BJP can be generous in sharing seats in the 288-member assembly," said a senior RPI leader.

Meanwhile, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which announced on Thursday its split with the Congress over sharing of seats and over the post of chief ministership which it felt must be shared between the two, met Maharashtra governor C V Rao on Thursday evening to inform him that it had withdrawn support to the Congress-led government.

And on Friday, the BJP's Leader of the opposition in legislative assembly, Eknath Khadse, also met the governor and requested him to impose President's rule in the state since the Congress-led government was reduced to a minority government.