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Modi’s dismal show in assembly elections gives Shiv Sena upper hand in alliance

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Sena leaders stress on significance of regional parties & alliance. In mouthpiece, Sena writes BJP first lost its friends now, important states. 

Mumbai: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) defeat in five states Tuesday, including three where it had incumbent governments, could tip the balance of power in Maharashtra in Shiv Sena’s favour, said Sena leaders.

Party sources said BJP’s loss in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Mizoram brings many lessons for it — people identify the Congress as an alternative on the national front, regional parties hold key in states, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity is on a definite wane.

Sena leaders said all these lessons point to one key takeaway — the BJP needs its allies to retain power in 2019.

“The Shiv Sena has resolved to contest elections independently. But with Tuesday’s verdict, the BJP realises even more that it cannot do without the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra,” said a senior Sena leader who did not wish to be named.

“The party is bound to approach us for negotiations and if and when that happens, we will have the upper hand,” added the leader.

Despite being one of BJP’s oldest allies and its coalition partner in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena has been one of BJP’s bitterest critics of late. The party has resolved to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections on its own strength, but maintains a blow hot, blow cold relation with the BJP.

On Tuesday, the Congress snatched power from the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, while the regional Telangana Rashtra Samithi and Mizo National Front triumphed in Telangana and Mizoram. The Congress was ahead of the BJP in Telangana and Mizoram.

Also read: Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray lauds voters for courage to reject ‘those not wanted’

‘Modi wave not strong enough’

Pratap Sarnaik, a Shiv Sena MLA, said the Congress won only three of the 65 Lok Sabha seats across Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh in 2014 due to a ‘Modi wave’ and the fact that the BJP lost in all three states despite Modi being Prime Minister gives an indication of how voters feel.

“Maharashtra is also a large state that sends 48 MPs to the Lok Sabha. In 2014, Shiv Sena helped the BJP win parliamentary elections from Maharashtra amid a Modi wave,” said Sarnaik.

“With this wave weakening, the BJP knows that it needs us in Maharashtra,” he said.

The BJP has 23 MPs in Maharashtra, while the Sena has 18.

Tuesday’s results come close on the heels of municipal corporation polls to Dhule and Ahmednagar in Maharashtra. While the BJP eased to victory in the Dhule, Shiv Sena won the highest number of seats in Ahmednagar, followed by the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) with the BJP being a distant third.

‘Congress is an alternative’

Shiv Sena leaders also said that the results have shattered the belief that there is no political alternative in the fray, and shown that voters see the Congress as one in a national perspective.

“Congress is after all India’s oldest political party and has a big hand in shaping India. Voters rejected Indira Gandhi after Emergency,” another senior Shiv Sena leader said.

“The same way, voters won’t hesitate to reject Narendra Modi and the BJP’s high-handedness. On the national front, people see Congress and the BJP as the two main choices,” added the leader.

In an editorial in Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece publication Saamana, the party Wednesday said, “Modi and Shah’s dreams of Congress-mukt Bharat have reduced to dust in BJP-ruled states itself. Instead voters in these states have given a strong message of wanting to be BJP-mukt.”

Also read: Uddhav Thackeray’s Ayodhya call has launched Shiv Sena 2.0

Importance of regional parties

In Telangana, K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s TRS won 88 of the 119 assembly seats, crushing the Congress-Telugu Desam Party alliance and leaving the BJP far behind with just one seat.

In Mizoram, the regional MNF won 26 of the 40 seats, denying the BJP its final
frontier in the Northeast after managing to get power in six of the seven northeastern states by either winning, forging coalitions or through political machinations.

“One strong conclusion is that, regional parties have always been strong. At times it may be cut to cut, but regional parties can never be overpowered because in any state there’s always the question of regional pride and it is regional parties that reflect it,” said Sena’s Anil Parab.

The Shiv Sena has often thrown barbs at BJP for allegedly undermining regional parties, and looking to finish them off.

On Wednesday, the party said in Saamana, “What has been defeated in these five states is the belief that governments are here only to fight elections and win, that in this country no party other than the BJP should last and if at all they do, they should stay as BJP’s supporters.

“BJP first lost its friends and now, important states,” it added.

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