Hardline party, BJP tie up for polls in key state

MUMBAI • A hardline Hindu nationalist group in western India will partner with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the coming elections after agreeing to a seat-sharing plan in Maharashtra state.

The tie-up with the Shiv Sena, a partner in the governing coalition led by the BJP, is a boost to Mr Modi as he seeks alliances ahead of the general election, which must be held by May.

The Shiv Sena had said last year it would contest the election on its own.

In Maharashtra state, the Shiv Sena and the BJP will contest 23 and 25 seats respectively, state Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, also a member of the BJP, told a news conference on Monday in Mumbai.

Mumbai, India's financial capital, is Maharashtra's state capital and where the Shiv Sena is headquartered.

The Shiv Sena has a strong support base in Maharashtra, where they advocate on behalf of locals, largely against immigrants from other parts of India to the state.

Like the BJP, the Shiv Sena believes India is a fundamentally Hindu nation, despite the country's secular constitution.

 
 

Maharashtra, India's richest state, sends 48 lawmakers to Parliament, second only to northern Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state, which elects 80 lawmakers.

In the 2014 federal elections, the two parties together won 41 of the 48 seats.

"We have entered into the alliance to keep the opposition parties out," Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said.

The announcement ends years of bickering between the two parties, which have been allies for about three decades. But their relationship soured and they ended their local partnership over seat-sharing disagreements in state-level elections in 2014.

Mr Modi's BJP has been scrambling to team up with regional parties for the upcoming general election, which pollsters say could produce a fractured mandate.

The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, traditional political rivals in Uttar Pradesh, last month forged an alliance in an effort to defeat the BJP.

In a fillip to opposition parties, the BJP lost power in three states in December, dealing Mr Modi his biggest defeat since he took office in 2014.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2019, with the headline 'Hardline party, BJP tie up for polls in key state'. Print Edition | Subscribe