Maharashtra is a crucial state for the BJP to hold power at the Centre and with Shiv Sena Chief, Uddhav Thackery declaring the divorce of the over two-decade alliance with the BJP, getting a majority in Maharashtra will not be a challenging Task for the BJP.
BJP came to over in Maharashtra in 2014 riding high on the Modi wave, after the State being rule by Congress and Congress-NCP alliance of several decades. Maharashtra is State where many political parties like the Congress, the Bhartiya Janta Party, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Shiv Sena held its first meetings, signifying the political importance of the State. With the Lok Sabha and State elections scheduled for next year, getting a majority in the State is essential for BJP to hold its power in the centre.
But can BJP win Maharashtra on its own this time around? BJP is at a warpath with its long-time ally Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP who had parted ways in 2014 elections are back in an alliance, the Modi effect or the Modi wave is no longer significant, and a large section of Marathas and farmers are not in favour of the current State Government.
Ever since BJP came in power in 2014, it has resorted to multiple tactics to side-line the Sena. Will, this tact of BJP, lead to its downfall with the BJP-Shiv Sena power struggle is still on-going, the Congress is making a nation-wide alliance of all opposition parties against the BJP, terming it the Maha-Ghatbandhan or the Grand Alliance, all this with just a year to go for the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.
Let us examine BJP’s report card in the recent byelections. Due to the death of Chinthaman Vanga of the BJP, the Palghar Lok Sabha byelections were held. In 2014, Vanga had won the Palghar Lok Sabha seat comfortably with the support of Shiv Sena by a margin of over 2.3 lakh votes. Even though BJP won the Palghar byelections which were contested by BJP, Congress, Shiv Sena, CPI(M) and the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi, is victory margin was reduced to a mere little over 28000 while Shiv Sena showcased its dominance by coming in second.
Also, in the byelection of the Bhandara-Gondia Lok Sabha seat, which was initiated due to the resignation of the serving M.P. Nana Potle from Lok Sabha as well as the BJP in protest of Prime Minister’s policies being anti-farmer. The Bhandara-Gondia Lok Sabha was the direct contest between the BJP and the NCP, with BJP losing the constituency.
The results of several other byelections across the nation resonated the point that BJP wins elections when several parties are in the fray and loses in a one-on-one contest. Is this the strategy behind Rahul Gandhi’s anti-BJP national alliance, the Maha-Ghatbhandhan?
With the 2019 Lok Sabha and State elections approaching, the BJP seems to be keen in maintaining their alliance with the Shiv Sena with BJP President Amit Shah visiting the residence of Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackery and the Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis seeming ready to make compromises to accommodate Shiva Sena ahead of the 2019 elections. The BJP also has offered Shiv Sena an additional cabinet berth in addition to the portfolio of Ministry of Heavy Industries held by Shiv Sena MP, Anant Gite.
Only time will tell if Shiv Sena will continue with its announcement of going solo without BJP in the 2019 election or might even forge an alliance with the BJP, this time on its own terms, especially in a situation where the Shiv Sena is a part of alliance becomes necessary for the BJP. Even though there was always an unwritten mutual understanding between the Shiv Sena Supremo Bala Saheb Thackery and Pramod Mahajan that Maharashtra is for Shiv Sena while Shiva Sena supports the BJP in rest of the country, but the said equations seemed to have changed in 2014. Devendra Fadnanis was appointed as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra instead of Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackery. Even though the BJP had the upper hand and the numbers in 2014, can it sustain those numbers in 2019 without the support of Shiv Sena?
While the battles between the BJP and Shiv Sena has continuously gained attention, the Congress, who had ruled the State of Maharashtra for decades, appears to be silent post is 2014 loss. It has failed to organise a single protest of agitation against the ruling government on several issues such as the financial slowdown in the commercial capital of the country due to demonetization and GST, constant hike in fuel prices, reservation for Marathas, crumbling infrastructure etc.
With the State of Maharashtra sending 48 Members of Parliament to the Lok Sabha, winning a majority in the state becomes paramount for the BJP to retain its position in the centre. The Congress does not seem to pose much of an opposition to the BJP at the moment for lack of influential leaders in the State, but can the BJP hold on its own without the support of its longtime ally, the Shiv Sena? Will the BJP and Shiv Sena reconcile in time for the 2019 elections and forge a formidable alliance or go their separate way? Will the Shiv Sena join the Congress-led anti-BJP alliance? With barely a year for the 2019 elections, no political party will leave any stone unturned to win a majority in the State, and soon the voters shall decide the fate of the political parties and the State when they exercise their fundamental duty to vote next year in the 2019 State and Lok Sabha Election.