Election results may lead to new alliances

Election results may lead to new alliances

With the current Lok Sabha elections, Maharashtra, the second largest state in terms of LS seats (48), could well be headed for a realignment of political forces.

The polls can also determine the future of Shiv Sena, which split in 2005 with Raj Thackeray forming his own outfit, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).

The polls may show the way to the question: who is the inheritor of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray’s legacy – will it be his son Uddhav or nephew Raj?

(This is also the first election that Maharashtra is witnessing after the death of Bal Thackeray).

Will MNS, now fighting independently, join forces with the BJP at the cost of Shiv Sena after the polls?

Also, there is lingering doubt among many on what wily Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar will do, should the UPA - of which his Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is a partner - perform poorly.

Will his party join the NDA or will he remain in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) led by the Congress?

Will there be recast of alliances as the state goes to the Assembly polls October-November?

These and many other questions will find their answers in the weeks following the May 16 results of Lok Sabha elections.

For, Maharashtra is one state where the outcome is keenly watched  (This is also the state where the pretender to the throne – the BJP – hopes for bountiful of seats.)

Chances of no party can outrightly be dismissed. For this, recent history can be a lesson.

Back in the 2009 LS polls, the Congress-NCP combine won a surprising 25 seats despite the supposed anti-incumbency after its 10-year rule in the state.

The alliance victory was mainly attributed to the good show put up by the fledgling MNS – it secured over a lakh votes in 9 of the 12 constituencies it contested while eating into the Shiv Sena vote bank which reduced the BJP-Sena tally to 19 (BJP won 9 and Sena 10; Raj also inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Sena in its stronghold of Mumbai as it lost all seats there.)

An off-shoot of the Shiv Sena after Raj fell out of favour of the Sena first family, the MNS, however, drew a blank.

Will the 15-year anti-incumbency of Congress-NCP, people’s ire against price rise and corruption and the appeal of Narendra Modi carry the day for the BJP-Sena?

The mood seems to be so but the final outcome could change, like it did in 2009.

Aware of the MNS strength and lack of enthusiasm generated by Shiv Sena leader Uddhav, the BJP tried to humour Raj into its fold but only got angry riposte from Uddhav. BJP’s former president Nitin Gadkari, however, succeeded in extracting promise from Raj of not putting up candidates against BJP. 

It’s here that the calculations of garnering maximum number of seats for the BJP-led alliance may go haywire, just as it did in 2009.

Raj has even given a call in favour of Modi which has only added to the confusion – there is a possibility that the pro-Modi votes may be split between the BJP-Sena and MNS.

The BJP has formed a five party “Mahayuti” (grand alliance) which has Shiv Sena, RPI(Athawale) and farmers’  leader Raju Shetti’s Swabhiman Shetkari Sanghatan (which wields considerable cloud in parts of sugarcane belt of Western Maharashtra) as partners.

5 regions

Maharashtra is divided into five regions – Vidarbha, Western Maharashtra, Marathwada, Konkan and Mumbai region.

The Congress-NCP have a hold in the first three regions and Sena in the last three (although it lost Mumbai thanks to Raj in 2009).

In the drought-prone region of Vidarbha, a Congress fortress, Congress-NCP did well but BJP-Sena were not off the mark either.

Drought and farmers’ suicides plagued Vidarbha for over a decade.

Making this an issue, the BJP-Sena combine made inroads here and won as many seats as the rival alliance did last time.

In Marathwada and the sugarcane belt of Western Maharashtra regions, t

he Congress-NCP combine was well ahead of the Right combination in 2009. In Western Maharashtra where NCP chief and powerful Sharad Pawar rules the roost, the polls will test his strength again.

The NCP and even the Congress receive institutional support here as the sugar barons are in their total support.

In 2009, Pawar’s stranglehold on the region was broken as NCP suffered defeat in five of the eight seats it contested.

The saffron alliance had till then failed to breach the Pawar bastion while this time around, the anti-Pawar front has gotten stronger following formation of the Mahayuti.

If Shiv Sena suffered complete loss of face in the Mumbai region which is its forte, the Congress-NCP combine won all the six seats riding on the votes that Raj cut into the Sena.

This, coupled with the presence of the Aam Aadmi Party which has pockets of influence in this metropolis, may come in handy for the ruling combine in next week’s polling.

In the current polls, the Congress is contesting 27 seats and NCP the remaining 21. The NCP gave up its seat of Hathkanangale to the Congress.

The BJP is contesting 24 and Sena 20 and the rest by their allies. Observers say this time around, the Shiv Sena was conspicuously near-absent from campaigning in Vidarbha and Marathwada-Western Maharashtra. Uddhav addressed only one rally in Vidarbha and two in Western Maharashtra.

This is contrary to the campaign style of Sena which normally does aggressive electioneering. Does it have much to do with the low-profile Uddhav?

Some Sena leaders tend to agree. Others quote a few Sena-BJP leaders saying the Narendra Modi wave is so much that they don’t need to campaign.

Is that really so? Modi ‘wave’ may be invisible but people’s ire is more towards price rise than anything else. It’s not even corruption which many say is all around.

“Price rise has affected every one of us. Those responsible should be taught a lesson,” a farmer told Deccan Herald in Western Maharashtra’s Nej village.

Perhaps, therein lies a message.

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