Ahead of crucial 2019 Lok Sabha election, the BJP and the Shiv Sena buried the hatchet and decided to contest the elections in alliance. They have decided on a seat-sharing formula wherein the BJP will be contesting 25 seats and Shiv Sena will be contesting 23 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra. The alliance between saffron parties is of great significance and would have big implication in deciding the outcome of the elections.
First of all, with this one move, the NDA in Maharashtra has outwitted the NCP-Congress alliance in the state. The NCP and Congress suffered a humiliating defeat in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, while the Congress won two seats, the NCP emerged victorious on four of their strongholds. In the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, if the Shiv Sena and the BJP would have been contesting separately then the UPA in the state comprising of NCP and the Congress had solid chance to win at least 20 seats. But now when the Saffron Alliance have become a reality in the state, in this case, the UPA could cross the tally of only 10 seats in the best case scenario.
The combined force of Shiv Sena and the BJP would not find it very difficult to subdue a weak opponent in the state. In recent times, it has been seen that the Congress is divided in the state. Recently, senior Congress leader Milind Deora had expressed his displeasure publicly over the infighting within the party. He is the latest to join the disgruntled Congress leaders. In a series of tweets, he claimed that the infighting was threatening to erode the party’s “base in Mumbai”.
For more details: Unhappy with Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, several leaders quit Congress ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha election
Priya Dutt has decided not to contest the 2019 General Election. Senior politician Narayan Rane joined the BJP. He is considered as a big gun in the Konkan region.
The NCP is also facing its own problems. Sharad Pawar is very old (78), and the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance has completely shattered his dream to become next PM as UPA in the state is not likely to cross the mark of more than 10 seats. With a minuscule number of seats, he is not likely to pose himself as the strong contender for the post of PM. Most probably, it is his last Lok Sabha election, and after the Maharashtra Assembly elections, he is likely to take retirement from active politics. Sharad Pawar’s age and his deteriorating popularity is not the only problem for the NCP. Its stalwart from Western Maharashtra, R.R. Patil is no more in this world. NCP has completely lost its ground in Mumbai with no sitting MLAs and MPs. Its senior OBC leader Chhagan Bhujbal spent significant time behind the bars. He is facing investigation under corruption cases. The party is losing its grip over Navi Mumbai also.
At a time when the Congress and the NCP are going through an extremely bad phase in the state, the alliance between the two saffron parties has only added insult to their injuries.
The saffron alliance has also come as an elixir for the Shiv Sena. It has been seen that in the recent time Shiv Sena has been becoming increasingly politically irrelevant in the state. The BJP ended the monopoly of Shiv Sena in the BMC. It had won whopping 82 seats out of 227 and Shivsena managed to win 84 seats and thus forcing the Shiv Sena to make BJP a partner in every major decision. The BJP has continued delivering outstanding performances in Zila Parishad elections and Gram Panchayat polls. With its performance, it outsmarted Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress.
The Shiv Sena needs BJP to stay politically relevant in the state. Without BJP, its tally will be down to single digit. That’s why its MPs were also pushing for the alliance with the BJP as they believe the party has been weakened in the recent years due to the rising political clout of Narendra Modi and Devendra Fadnavis. Without an iota of doubt, Shiv Sena is the biggest beneficiary of the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in Maharashtra. It also helps BJP to win some additional seats and bring a consolidation of votes of similar vote base. Palghar and Bhandara-Gondiya by-polls in 2018 provide an interesting insight into how BJP-Shiv Sena alliance will help in this consolidation. The BJP had won both seats by a huge margin in 2014, when it managed to take all ten seats in Vidarbha, traditionally a Congress stronghold. The NCP and Congress tied up for the Bhandara-Gondiya seat in the region and wrested it from the BJP in the by-poll. The BJP narrowly lost Bhandara-Gondia seat to the NCP. The BJP only narrowly defeated the Sena in Palghar, a Konkan constituency. The BJP candidate Rajendra Gavit, secured 2,72,780 votes whereas Shiv Sena’s Shrinivas Wanaga got 2,43,206 votes in Palghar by-polls. Shiv Sena, although not a formidable opposition to BJP, could have made matters difficult for BJP in seats such as Palghar and Bhandara Gondiya. Now, with Shiv Sena on board, the problem of vote division is solved.
The Shiv Sena’s base in Maharashtra is shrinking and the BJP is providing it a lifeline. The Shiv Sena has failed to grow outside its strongholds of Konkan region, Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai and parts of Marathwada. The BJP has already emerged as the principal challenger to Shiv Sena’s hegemony in the aforementioned regions.
The BJP has spread its cadre base in the state like never before. Now it has greater grass root presence than any other party in the state. Maharastra CM Devendra Fadnavis has emerged as one of the tallest leaders of the state. Fadnavis has clearly taken Maharashtra by storm. The way he has handled a hostile ally, continuing to run the government and at the same time showing them their place, is brilliant politicking. He countered the caste and identity politics in the state with his development agenda. Fadnavis’ administrative and developmental track record has matched his political acumen.
BJP has seen ups and downs in most states since 2014, but under Fadnavis, Maharashtra has been firmly with the party. He is doing infrastructure works at phenomenal speed be it Nagpur Metro, Pune Metro, Nagpur-Mumbai Super Expressway (Samruddhi Mahamarg). He has brought lots of foreign investment into Maharashtra. He earned laurels for small scale water conservation project, Jal Yukta Shivar. He handled agriculture sector very well despite two years of back to back droughts in 2015 and 2016. He is a no-nonsense Chief Minister. Even his critics agree that he is humble, honest, polite, non-controversial, always smiling, soft-spoken and down to earth person. There are talks about how the BJP is in trouble in several states, but in Maharashtra, there is no doubt that Fadnavis is handling things brilliantly. The way he handled Anna Hazare’s agitation is commendable. He has proved himself as a mass leader. Devendra Fadnavis holds the fort for BJP in Maharashtra. His good works would benefit the BJP as well its alliance partner Shiv Sena in the state in the upcoming elections. It’s safe to conclude that Maharashtra is a safe house of the NDA in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.