With the BJP winning four out of five Assembly elections recently, the party seems all set to come back for a third time at the centre after 2024 Lok Sabha elections. All eyes will now be on the General Elections. However, shortly after the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the state of Maharashtra too will go to the elections.
And this time around, the Maharashtra Assembly elections promise to be predictable yet interesting. Let’s see how the elections will pan out.
What will happen to Shiv Sena?
The state of Maharashtra presently has a Chief Minister from the Shiv Sena itself. With Uddhav Thackeray ensconced in the Chief Minister’s office, the Shiv Sena might believe that it is invincible but it isn’t.
In fact, the party could get annihilated in Maharashtra during the 2024 Assembly elections. Having abandoned its alliance with the BJP, you simply don’t see Shiv Sena finding any major voter base in the state.
If it comes to Marathas, you see NCP grab a major share of this vote and some vote go towards the BJP. Similarly, when it comes to Muslims, you see Congress and the NCP take away most of that vote. And finally, when it comes to other Maharashtrians, you see the BJP grab all such votes.
You simply don’t see a voter bloc to which the Shiv Sena appeals. And this creates an awkward situation for the Uddhav Thackeray-led party.
BJP to go solo
Meanwhile, the BJP has announced that it will go solo. Last year, BJP’s Maharashtra unit president Chandrakant Patil said, “It’s high time the BJP got rid of crutches and fought the polls alone. In Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan, the BJP contests alone and wins. They do not have any alliance partners there. At present, Republican Party of India (Athavale), Shiv Sangram, Ryat Kranti and Rashtriya Samaj Party are with BJP and we will continue our alliance only with these parties.”
So, BJP’s plan is to go solo and eat entirely into Shiv Sena’s vote share in the state. Traditionally, BJP and the Shiv Sena used to contest in alliance with each other. Shiv Sena benefitted from a common ideology and a common vote bloc, as well as Balasaheb Thackeray’s popularity in and around Mumbai.
Even after PM Modi came to power, Shiv Sena benefitted from the alliance. But this time around, the BJP will go solo and this will hurt Shiv Sena’s voter base in the state.
The NCP and the Congress likely to form a strong opposition
The BJP is targeting a full majority in the state on its own. Meanwhile, the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) would also try to establish their stronghold in the state.
And the two parties are unlikely to contest in a pre-poll alliance with the Shiv Sena. Remember, the Shiv Sena doesn’t have much ideological semblance with the INC or the NCP. So, these parties won’t be making gains by any decision to pit the Sena against the BJP. Moreover, the risks of the BJP cutting into Shiv Sena’s vote share exceed the chances of Shiv Sena cancelling out BJP’s Hindutva vote. This again puts the Shiv Sena in an awkward position.
The INC and the NCP are therefore not going anywhere in Maharashtra. The NCP especially looks in a position to lead the opposition after 2024. The party has a wide voter base and the party patriarch, Sharad Pawar, still seems quite influential. The next generation of the two-party seems to be well-groomed with leaders like Ajit Pawar enjoying a good deal of popularity in the state.
For the BJP, the next elections could be a cakewalk. The Maharashtra elections will thus be a treat to watch.