Mumbai: For the second time in a fortnight, Union Minister and Republican Party of India (A) chief Ramdas Athawale on Tuesday demanded 10 seats from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena as the countdown to Maharashtra elections got underway.
Speaking to media persons on Tuesday evening, Athawale also reiterated that his party would not contest the elections on the BJP’s lotus and will go to the hustings on its own symbol.
Athawale’s statement came nearly a fortnight after he first raised the demand at a party rally in Mumbai on September 5. Maharashtra will go to the polls in October for electing a new 288-member assembly.
Among the seats the RPI(A) has given as options which it wants to contest are: Kej, Udgir, Deglur, Gangakhed (all in Marathwada), Bhandara, Chandrapur, Umerkhed, Nagpur North, Pandharkavada, Aarni, Mehekar, Badnera (Vidarbha), Pimpri, Pune Cantt., Malsej, Mohol, Phaltan (all in Western Maharashtra), Bhusawal, Chalisgaon, Deolali, Shrirampur (North Maharashtra), Chembur, Mankhurd, Karjat and Khalapur (Mumbai-Konkan belt).
In the 2014 assembly elections, the RPI(A) had fought Ambernath, Chembur, Pimpri, Deglur, Mehekar, Vikhroli, Shivajinagar and Deolali, but all its candidates lost.
However, since the BJP-Sena have yet to finalise their alliance, it is not yet clear how many seats they are likely to allot to the other allies – RPI(A), Shiv Sangram Party, Rashtriya Samaj Party and Swabhimani Party.
There are 288 seats in the Maharashtra Assembly, and the BJP is reportedly keen that the smaller allies contest the polls on its (‘Lotus’) symbol for better winning prospects.
On the other hand, Sena circles said that since all the four smaller allies in the state are from the BJP side, it (BJP) would have to accommodate them from its quota of seats and that the Sena would not compromise on its share.
Interestingly, in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, despite repeated pleas, the ruling alliance did not allot a single seat to any of the allies, including Athawale who was keen to contest Mumbai North-East constituency.
Nevertheless, since the RPI(A) chief is already a Rajya Sabha member, he was inducted into the Union cabinet as Minister of State for Social Justice and his current term in the upper house of parliament will expire next year.