The Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would follow the 2004 Assembly elections formula for the October 13 polls, with Shiv Sena contesting 169 and the BJP contesting in 119 seats, state BJP president Nitin Gadkari told PTI.“ The Shiv Sena-BJP alliance has nearly finalised its seat sharing and the parties would contest the same number of seats they did the last time,” he said.

Elections to the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly will be held on October 13.

“The announcement about seat sharing would be made in a couple of days,” Mr. Gadkari said.

Asked if there are differences in the saffron alliance over Guhagar Assembly seat in coastal Konkan, Mr. Gadkari said “We will not make Guhagar a prestige issue.”

The seat had become the bone of contention between the two parties following delimitation. Shiv Sena wants the seat for Ramdas Kadam whose traditional constituency, Khed, does not exist post-delimitation.

Mr. Gadkari said the crisis in the party at the national level won’t affect the Maharashtra polls. “Media has blown the issue out of proportion but it would not have any impact on the state polls,” he said. Speaking on the poll agenda, Mr. Gadkari said the party would focus more on development rather than caste and religion.

“We have prepared a Maharashtra vision document 2020 and addressed major issues like power, agriculture, health, water, employment and tourism,” Mr. Gadkari said. “BJP would not nominate criminals in the polls arena,” he said. He also added that it was tragic that criminal elements get elected.

Referring to the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, Mr. Gadkari said the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party government had failed to tackle the security issues and the overall law and order situation in the state.

Mr. Gadkari also said that the BJP has chalked out a campaign strategy which would focus on making people realise that voting Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) is akin to voting for the Congress-NCP alliance.

“We would appeal to the people, saying that voting for the MNS is like voting for Congress-NCP alliance again and if they need change, they should vote for Shiv Sena-BJP and not the MNS,” he said. Of the 12 seats the MNS contested in the Lok Sabha elections, the party dented the prospects of the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance candidates in at least nine seats.

The BJP—Sena combine could not win even a single seat in Mumbai, although Mumbai North and Mumbai North-East seats were considered winning seats for the saffron alliance. The BJP had admitted that the MNS played “spoilsport” for the Sena-BJP alliance and blamed Congress-NCP for that.

“It was a strategic plan of the Congress and NCP to back MNS candidates and divide votes of the saffron alliance,” Gadkari said. The BJP leader also criticised the MNS’s politics on the basis of Marathi language.”BJP does not believe in language politics and the issue of Marathi versus Bihari,” he said.

Asked about Sena’s strong ‘pro-Marathi’ stance, Gadkari said “as far as Marathi pride is concerned, we also do not share a different view but we oppose politics on basis of caste and language. If we come to power, we would start a special department to encourage Marathi”.