File photo of NCP chief Sharad Pawar
File photo of NCP chief Sharad Pawar | Photo: @PawarSpeaks | Twitter
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The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance may have won the Maharashtra assembly election, but it is Sharad Pawar who is having the last laugh.

There is a saying in Maharashtra – whichever party wins, Pawar decides the CM. Many senior leaders in the BJP would have surely told the greenhorn chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis, ‘not to take panga with Pawar’.

The voters in Maharashtra have given a very clear message to the BJP – people cannot be taken for granted. The party was confident of winning Maharashtra with a huge margin, but the not-so-spectacular victory is a wake-up call for everyone.


Also read: Do Maharashtra and Haryana election results show that the opposition is not dead in India?


BJP strategy backfires

Devendra Fadnavis handled the Maratha agitation wisely. But he dared to challenge the might of the Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar on his turf, which backfired for the BJP in western Maharashtra. The NCP-Congress combine won 39 of the 70 assembly seats in the region.

The Enforcement Directorate case against Sharad Pawar, on the eve of the elections, was supposedly a signal that he should relinquish his throne. But as it turns out, it generated a massive sympathy wave for the NCP leader.

To add insult to injury, the BJP also lost the Lok Sabha bypoll in Satara Thursday.

Former NCP leader and a descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji, Udayanraje Bhosale, had got elected to the Lok Sabha from Satara in May on an NCP ticket. Considered close to Sharad Pawar, he was poached by the BJP. He quit the NCP and resigned as an MP. The BJP decided to field him in the bypoll – this was supposed to be a message to the ailing Sharad Pawar that it is the BJP and not the Maratha leader who would decide his succession plan.

The voters clearly decided the opposite, with NCP candidate Shriniwas Patil defeating BJP’s Bhosale by more than 87,000 votes. This is the power and influence of Sharad Pawar. The Maratha strongman ensured that his nominees win and his citadel remains intact.


Also read: Maharashtra, Haryana send a message against the BJP’s arrogance of power


What will Pawar do next?

It is unlikely that Sharad Pawar would rock the BJP-Shiv Sena boat. Since his party in alliance with the Congress doesn’t have the numbers to form a government, Pawar would be content to be left alone.

This time, the general perception was that ‘Pawar saheb’ could be fighting his last election in Maharashtra. Many still believe that he doesn’t hold any grudge against the Centre, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi (who incidentally is said to have come all the way to Baramati to meet the ailing leader two years ago). But one cannot overlook the fact that Pawar, like many leaders of his generation, is lonely at the top.

As the government formation drama unfolds, Pawar would probably sit back and relax and watch the fun. It is also possible that while keeping his party at a safe distance from the BJP-Shiv Sena combine in Maharashtra, he may offer to support the government at the Centre by allowing one of his MPs to join the cabinet.

This would also ensure a smooth tenure for the next Maharashtra government, especially when a third-generation Thackeray has just entered the House and made no secret of his ambitions.

BJP must rework strategy

The BJP-Shiv Sena combine has retained Maharashtra and is set to form the next government, but going by the strike rate and the perceived loss of popular votes for the BJP, the Shiv Sena will seek its pound of flesh in the days to come.

In the last five years, the Shiv Sena has been a vocal critic of the state as well as the central government, almost donning the opposition’s cap. While this robbed the Congress and the NCP of their legitimate opposition space, the BJP-Shiv Sena coalition came to a breaking point on several occasions.

But closer to the election, both parties realised the futility of contesting separately and getting their vote banks divided. Such a triangular contest could have greatly benefitted the Congress-NCP combine.

Yet, it will be foolish write off the BJP. There is some amount of voter fatigue, which should ring the alarm bells for the state BJP leadership. The revival of the Congress is yet to happen and these elections have suggested that such a revival could be triggered from the states, from the grassroots, and from the follies of the BJP.

Although the next Lok Sabha elections are still four-and-a-half years away, the BJP will have to rework its strategy in the states and look for new friends, manage the existing ones better, and project local leaders who can lead the party to victory in the states on local issues.


Also read: Haryana shows BJP isn’t invincible in assembly polls. But here’s what saves it in the end


The author is a member of the National Executive Committee of the BJP and former editor of Organiser. Views are personal.

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13 Comments Share Your Views

13 COMMENTS

  1. i aM INDIAS FIRST INDUSTRIAL /OCCUPATIONAL PHYSICIAN FROM THE MINISTRY OF LABOUR GOVT OF INDIA TO BE ACCREDITED AS CONSULTANT PHYSICIAN BY THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF SURGEONS IN IRELAND DUBLIN AT BEUMONT HOSPITAL DUBLIN9 IRELAND ON 27 TH JUNE 1994 ,IF I WERE IN FADNAVIS POSITION I TOO WOULD HAVE SHIV SENA AS PARTNER IN AN ASSEMBLY ELECTION ,KINDEST RGDS DR T M S

  2. The fact that Chari even mentions the ED probes against Pawar as a signal confirms that the BJP is using the ED and CBI for nefarious purposes. This comes from the highest levels in the parivar, we can note.

  3. Ideally, a confident BJP should have gone alone in the background of a good 5 year work by Fadnavis. BJP should have appealed that while a lot of good work could be achieved during last 5 years, a lot remains to be done, particularly for farmers and the poor and they need another term to continue the work. Fadnavis should have addressed immediate issues of flood, farmer distress, farmer suicide, PMC Bank etc. Last few months, more time was lost in organizing rallies than hard work. BJP had a good chance of getting rid of SS strangle hold this time but Amit Shah seems to have misjudged it. In fact, once Art 370, Ram Madir and UCC are done, the ideological existence for SS ends. So called Hindu agenda issues are then sorted. ‘Marathi manus’ cannot be the sole prerogative of SS.

    Now that results are known, Fadnavis should pay visit to Pawar, hug him and show deference to the senior politician. This will create a good image for himself. This can neutralize SS to some extent and keep floating rumors of NCP supporting BJP and BJP cooling off on Nitin Patel.

    • Sharad pawar had close ties with the mafia and dawood ibrahim, even facilitated the escape of Dawood’s family after 1993 blasts. How can you forget that? of course, Modi also blew hot and cold on Pawar. Modi should not have honoured Pawar with a padma vibhusan, only to turn around and hilight his mafia links before the election.

  4. Sharad Pawar is an overrated politician, who cannot win beyond his region viz. Western Maharashtra. Rest of Maharashtra he doesn’t count, leave alone outside the state. For all his so called political acumen, he has never been CM of Maharashtra for a full term of 5 years, leave alone deciding the CM. A man with contacts across the political spectrum but trusted by nobody. At the fag end of a political career with nothing much to show, other then a moribund family outfit masquerading as a political party.

  5. The views put forward aren’t entirely acceptable. True, Sharad Pawar fought a lone battle at his age against BJP but his heroics are one of the many reasons for poor BJP performance at the hustings.
    BJP played into the hands of Shiv Sena right from seat adjustments. If seats were divided in the ratio a d proportion of the sitting MLAs, SS wouldn’t have got more than 95 seats and with the STRIKE RATE finally achieved ( BJP@70% & SS@47% ), chances of BJP winning almost 125 seats n SS closing at 40 seats was possible. Secondly, all BJP Senior leader, especially the loudmouth Girish Mahajan a d surprisingly, CM himself this time, gave the party cadre, a misplaced sense of complacency ,so much so that they couldn’t and didn’t mobilise voters to the polling booths ad can be seen from lower percentage of voter turnout.
    Thirdly, party dissidents played crucial role in vote cutting thereby resulting in loss of at least 8 to 10 seats. The result is…
    BJP is now standing at the doors of their partner, a wounded and ill treated tiger, with no choice but to save their goal of Govt formation by agreeing to some unpalatable demands.
    The old wily fox has already thrown a bait for SS but Uddhav Thakre is no novice a d hopefully, better sense prevails for the better future of state… and not for better future of Prince Aditya.

  6. Sooner or later the NCP will have ask themselves the question : “ Who after Sharad Pawar? “ Next elections for the Assembly are five years away. There could be drastic change in the scenario in the interim period. NCP is is a lost cause / a rudderless ship without Sharad Pawar. He has performed a miracle by saving the party from a certain decimation. NCP is celebrating now. This is a one-day affair. Perhaps they are forgetting that they still are without power at the Centre as well as in Mumbai. When they think of their medium term future there is hardly anything to celebrate about.

  7. Don’t praise Sharad Pawar as though he is Almight in Indian politics. He is one of the most corrupt co-alition partners of UPA. He has survived without being caught because of his political clout. The proable cause for BJP’s loss is its tremandous arrogance arising from 2014 and 2019 electoral success. Alternating draught and floods have also tarnished BJP’s influence. Sharad Pawar is a spent force. If he dies, there is none to carry forward the party. This is the fate of all the dynastic parties.

  8. The Lion getting drenched on the stage has become the defining image of this election. 2. One was surprised – not pleasantly – to read of plans being made to defeat the Pawars in Baramati. Political contestation should not be taken to this extent. It will once again push up the Index of Opposition unity.

  9. If one looks at vote share, it is Shiv Sena that has suffered the most. NCP Cong vote share has only slightly increased but resulted in more seats. Disgruntled loyalists who stood as independents robbed some votes. BJP needs to admit that it’s strategy of taking in turncoats has failed. People don’t like this win at any cost attitude.

  10. project local leaders who can lead the party to victory in the states on local issue. This statement from the idealogue is significant.

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