Mumbai, Sep 26:
From begging for single-digit seats, smaller parties in Maharashtra have become most sought after following the break-up of the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance.
The Republican Party of India led by Ramdas Athawale, who was begging the BJP and Sena until the other day to let him contest at least seven seats, is now being aggressively wooed by both parties.
“Both the BJP and the Sena have offered us a central cabinet berth if we support them,” a beaming but seemingly confused Athawale told the media.
According to him, the Sena is 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 Oct 15 assembly elections.
Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has indicated 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 Dalit leader is torn between the Sena and the BJP, which split Thursday after being together for 25 long years.
Among the other smaller parties in the Grand Alliance, the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) led by MP Raju Shetti is likely to get 18 seats from the BJP, with which it allied Thursday along with the Rashtriya Samaj Paksh (RSP) and Shiv Sangram.
The RSP and Shiv Sangram are expecting they will be allowed to contest four-six seats each. Until Thursday, they were not assured of even one or two 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.