BJP silently avoids Sena's political trap

BJP silently avoids Sena's political trap

 The BJP is not attacking its estranged ally Shiv Sena despite several provocations for engaging in a verbal spat ahead of the Assembly polls.

The saffron party is trying to avoid consolidation of Maratha votes, and it also wants to fight on the positive campaign agenda of development and governance, which had yielded results during the just-held Lok Sabha elections.

The Shiv Sena has attacked the BJP on several counts—from holding the top party leadership responsible for the alliance's end to accusing the party of dividing the state—in its attempt to turn this election into a fight to protect the Marathi “asmita” (pride). 

The Shiv Sena's Uddhav Thackeray and Raj Thackeray of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) seem to be singing the same tune, along with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), as for the first time since 1978 the vernacular and national parties are contesting the polls separately, putting a premium on different segments of voters.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement, that he would not criticise Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray out of respect, is interpreted by many in the party as the leader avoiding being trapped in caste and regional politics, which the Sena would want. 

Similarly, Modi countered the Sena charge of carving out Vidarbha with the statement that Mumbai is integral to Maharashtra’s development.

BJP leaders claim that Sena is expected to suffer more from the split as it has nothing to offer to the public. On the other hand, the BJP has a charismatic leader in Modi, and voters would like to benefit from the NDA’s development agenda by voting the party to power in the state, claimed a senior party leader from Maharashtra. 

The BJP is likely to launch its manifesto for the Maharashtra polls on Thursday.The party is critical of the outgoing Congress-NCP government, trying to exploit the anti-incumbency mood among the voters. Its assessment is backed by a media-house survey conducted with the assistance of pollster-turned-BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao. 

The Lens On News survey, said Rao, foresees the BJP and the Congress benefiting from their decisions to contest alone this time. The survey projects the BJP as the single largest party with 152 seats. The number two slot is predicted to be occupied by the Congress, with 44 seats, while the Sena will be marginally behind with 38 seats.

In terms of projected votes, the BJP is expected to get a vote share of 28 per cent, followed by the Congress (22 per cent), the Shiv Sena (17 per cent) and the NCP (15 per cent). The MNS is likely to manage just 6 per cent of the votes, claims the survey. 

The BJP claims that Modi’s rallies in western Maharashtra are drawing large crowds, indicating that it would do well in the single-caste-dominated regions of Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur, Pune and Nagar.

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