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Maharashtra battle turns anybody’s game with entry of third player

Amid the political climate full of dissent and divided opinion in the wake of two back-to-back splits in the two regional players Shiv Sena and the NCP, the ruling Maha Yuti (NDA) and the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (I.N.D.I.A bloc) now face a common challenge in the form of Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi.
Last Updated : 15 April 2024, 23:39 IST
Last Updated : 15 April 2024, 23:39 IST

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Mumbai: What was being forecasted as an eyeball-to-eyeball contest between two diametrically-opposite alliances in Maharashtra has gradually twisted and turned into a three-cornered contest in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

The west Indian state sends the second-largest contingent of 48 MPs after 80 lawmakers from Uttar Pradesh. 

In 2014 and 2019, thanks to the Narendra Modi wave, the results were largely one sided, but in 2024, it could be anybody’s game. 

Amid the political climate full of dissent and divided opinion in the wake of two back-to-back splits in the two regional players Shiv Sena and the NCP, the ruling Maha Yuti (NDA) and the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (I.N.D.I.A bloc) now face a common challenge in the form of Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi.

The VBA is an umbrella of various organisations of Dalits, Tribals, Dhangars, Kolis, Agris, Banjaras, Vanjaris, Malis, Kaikadis and other communities. 

Make-or-break scenario

Maharashtra has a history of political rebels and smaller parties becoming the spoilsport for bigger players. And this time too this trend is likely to play out. 

The Maha Yuti comprising BJP and its two key allies — Eknath Shinde-headed Shiv Sena and Ajit Pawar-led NCP — is aiming to cross 45 seats and improve the previous best of 41 seats.

Coups in Shiv Sena and NCP have made it easy for the saffron party to establish control over the government in Maharashtra. However, the public response to these political upheavals has been mixed. 

On the other hand, in the Congress-led MVA, alliance partners Shiv Sena (UBT) headed by Uddhav Thackeray and NCP (SP) led by veteran politician Sharad Pawar are struggling to reach out the masses and explain their respective positions. 

For both Pawar and Thackeray, this is a make-or-break election. The results could also have a far-reaching impact on the state Assembly elections likely to be held a few months later.

VBA to play crucial role

The BJP’s repeated acts of ‘Operation Kamal’, the undeclared policy of ‘saam-daam-dand-bhedh’ (victory by any means) and the ‘misuse’ of central agencies like CBI, ED and IT to target political opponents in Maharashtra has not gone down well with the masses. 

“If the BJP succeeds in winning 400-plus seats or crossing the two-thirds majority, it is surely going to try to tamper with the existing Constitution. Ours is a great Constitution, the drafting committee of which was headed by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. At such a crucial time, Ambedkar’s grandson has come out of seat-sharing talks with the opposition MVA. His ego is going to benefit the BJP and its allies,” said veteran political analyst Prakash Akolkar. 

“We have seen the results of 2019 Lok Sabha elections. He (Prakash Ambedkar) fielded candidates everywhere and managed to dent the Congress vote bank, leading to the defeat of nine candidates including two former CMs Sushilkumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan,” added Akolkar. 

Congress losing ground

Since the emergence of Modi in the national political scene, the BJP in itself has undergone a sea change and this was visible on the ground in Maharashtra, which was a traditional Congress stronghold. Now the party does not have a single MP as Balu Dhanorkar who was elected in 2019 from Chandrapur died last year.

The Congress base has eroded and many leaders have jumped ship. 

“Maharashtra was a progressive state, however, politics has divided people on caste lines. The Maratha reservation and the resistance of OBCs to it are big poll issues. At the same time, democracy vs dictatorship is a narrative that is being discussed by the masses. While the target set by the NDA to win 400 seats is difficult to achieve, even if it is achieved, changing or amending the Constitution will not be easy. The Basic Structure of the Constitution cannot be changed,” said veteran Gandhian activist and writer Jatin Desai.

The biggest pluses for the BJP are Modi’s charisma and the consecration of Ram Lalla in Ayodhya.

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Published 15 April 2024, 23:39 IST

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