Mumbai: Elections to the 288-member Maharashtra assembly will be held on 21 October, and the results will be declared three days later, when it will be clear if the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP-Sena alliance government will get another chance to rule one of India’s largest states – and if yes, how strong a mandate it will be.
The elections will be held five months after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena alliance recorded a thundering success in the Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP won 23 of Maharashtra’s 48 parliamentary seats, while the Shiv Sena won 18. The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) opposition, which aggressively campaigned in the hope of a comeback, was further decimated with the Congress winning just one seat and the NCP getting four.
In the 2014 assembly elections, when there was a four-cornered fight with the BJP, Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP contesting independently, the BJP dominated the state by winning 122 of the 288 seats.
The party formed the government by November end through a voice vote in the state assembly, despite not reaching the half-way mark. The Shiv Sena, which had won 63 seats, formally joined the Fadnavis government on 5 December 2014, providing it stability. The Congress and the NCP won 42 and 41 seats, respectively.
Ahead of this year’s state elections, CM Fadnavis is pitching statistics of the current government’s performance in the five years as against the performance of the previous Congress-NCP government over 15 years, while also lauding the Centre’s decision to abrogate Article 370 from Jammu & Kashmir.
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Opposition still on a sticky wicket
Instead of rallying before the assembly polls, the Congress and NCP have been further weakened in Maharashtra with a spate of defections of senior leaders, including many sitting MLAs, to the BJP and the Shiv Sena.
Nearly 25 opposition leaders, including 13 serving legislators and several former ministers such as Harshavardhan Patil, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, Jaidutt Kshirsagar, Bhaskar Jadhav and Kalidas Kolambkar have defected to the BJP and the Shiv Sena over the past few months.
The defections have especially jolted the NCP, which has lost a number of senior leaders who were once close aides of party chief Sharad Pawar.
The Maharashtra Congress too has had a tumultuous past few months with there being a change in leadership. After state Congress president Ashok Chavan resigned, Balasaheb Thorat stepped into the role with four working presidents. At the Mumbai level too, former MP Milind Deora, who was appointed the party’s city president just ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, resigned in July, after which the party appointed former MP Eknath Gaikwad as acting president of the city unit. Factionalism within the party, especially in its Mumbai unit, may continue to hurt the party in the state assembly polls too.
Moreover, while the Shiv Sena and the BJP separately hit the road to campaign with their “Jan Ahirwad yatra” and “Mahajanadesh yatra”, respectively, from the beginning of August, the Congress was late in starting its campaign. Nana Patole, a former Congressman who returned from the BJP to the Congress in 2017, planned and led the Congress’ “pol khol yatra” from August end. There was, however, ample discord among senior leaders for not having been taken into confidence.
Sena-BJP leadership firm on alliance, but issues remain
In 2014, the BJP ruptured its alliance with the Shiv Sena ahead of the assembly poll due to differences over seat-sharing, following which the relationship between the saffron allies turned bitter. The BJP-Sena ties got choppier after the state assembly election results when the BJP fared better than its ally, reducing it to a junior partner from traditionally having the upper hand.
The two parties set their differences aside before the Lok Sabha election and decided to contest together. CM Fadnavis and Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray addressed a joint press conference saying that the two parties will equally divide seats and posts for the assembly election.
There has, however, been some bickering between the cadre of two parties on which of the two will get the CM’s post if the alliance wins. While the BJP is confident of Fadnavis taking over the state’s reins once again, the Shiv Sena has been pushing Aaditya Thackeray’s name.
Also, while the top leadership of both parties has reiterated their commitment to the alliance, there have reportedly been disagreements over the exact number of seats both parties will contest, with the BJP trying to get more seats in its quota and the Shiv Sena wanting to stick to the 50:50 formula. The two parties are yet to formally announce the details of the alliance.
On Friday, Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray said a formal announcement regarding the alliance will be made in the next two days. Union Home Minister Amit Shah will be in Mumbai Sunday to interact with BJP’s karyakartas on the government’s decision to scrap Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
“The details of the seat-sharing were finalised by me, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Amit Shah before the Lok Sabha elections. The details will be announced in the next two days,” Thackeray told reporters Friday.
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