Analysis: Alliance Partners Worried Over Vote Transfer

Analysis: Alliance Partners Worried Over Vote Transfer

The formation of two new parties in the political sphere in the state is likely to cause fragmentation of the voter base leading to confusion about how this vote transfer will take place

Rohit ChandavarkarUpdated: Wednesday, March 13, 2024, 06:18 PM IST
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VBA leader Prakash Ambedkar | PTI

As seat-sharing talks between alliance partners on both sides of the political divide linger on in Maharashtra, there are new demands cropping up mainly because in dozens of constituencies the concern now seems to be whether vote transfer from one alliance partner's supporters will get transferred to another alliance partner in those places. The formation of two new parties in the political sphere in the state is likely to cause fragmentation of the voter base leading to confusion about how this vote transfer will take place.

On Tuesday, Prakash Ambedkar, the president of Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA), which is in talks with Sharad Pawar and the Congress for a seat-sharing alliance in the Lok Sabha polls, wrote a letter to the Congress president and used some harsh words to describe how he is feeling frustrated over the delay in deciding the seats. The letter was posted by him on social media and went viral in no time. Ambedkar pointed out how, in his view, the Congress seems more focussed on expanding its base instead of taking alliance partners along to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the polls. We cannot name the particular seats that we want because the Congress, Sharad Pawar's NCP and Shiv Sena are unable to decide the division of seats between them, Ambedkar said in his media conference after he released the letter on social media. There is a dispute over which seats who should keep and in over 10 places there is conflict of interest, he said.

Insiders from both parties speaking about the seat-sharing process revealed that the fear is about vote transfer. In many places in Konkan, in western Maharashtra and Vidarbha, the alliance partners are not sure if their candidate will get votes from their alliance partner's voter base. If a particular seat goes in the sharing formula to Uddhav Thackeray's Shiv Sena candidate, that party is not sure that Sharad Pawar's voters in the constituency will come out to vote for Thackeray's candidate.

This is seen on the other side of the political divide too. For instance, in Shirur of Pune district Shiv Sena is not sure if Ajit Pawar's followers in the constituency will vote for Shivajirao Adhalrao Patil the probable candidate of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde's Shiv Sena. This, according to leaders, is making the seat sharing talks complicated and the candidate list is getting delayed.

Meanwhile, the BJP is moving quickly to seal its second candidate list and the first for Maharashtra in which some heavyweights are likely to be included. The party has been cautious to gather information from the opposition camp about who is likely to be their candidate from various constituencies and will then try to pitch candidates who have similar profiles. Shinde, who heads the Shiv Sena, has been saying that as his party won 18 seats in alliance with the BJP in the 2019 polls, he should be given a similar number this time. However, the BJP has been insisting that they will not give more than 12 seats to Shinde.

One of the reasons why Shinde is pushing his demand through some of his supporters is that he wants to keep his flock of 40 MLAs happy and is hopeful about getting a large chunk of seats in the Assembly elections that would take place around October. Both Shinde and Ajit Pawar want to give a signal to their supporters and public at large that they are not submissive followers of the BJP who will only obey all orders coming from New Delhi. In all these seat-sharing talks if there is one leader who seems to be getting restless and a bit uncomfortable it is Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who has been making some noise and making trips to New Delhi because he thinks only four seats being given to him is a raw deal and his MLAs should also be kept hopeful about their future prospects in their constituencies in the October Assembly polls. Most of Ajit Pawar's probable candidates in the Assembly polls had actually fought against Shinde's 40 MLAs in the last Assembly elections. This makes the equation about vote transfer between alliance partners even in Lok Sabha constituencies very tricky.

On an average, six Assembly constituencies make one Lok Sabha constituency. Whether vote transfers actually take place in most of the Assembly constituencies between alliance partners is a question nobody has answers to. In some places there could be votes moving from Ajit Pawar supporters to Sharad Pawar's NCP. The probable candidates seem really worried about how these equations will work. The fragmentation happening because of two new parties coming into the battlefield is likely to result in the margins of winning candidates being much smaller than last time and this means there is uncertainty like never before over the results in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls in Maharashtra.

Rohit Chandavarkar is a senior journalist who has worked for 31 years with various leading newspaper brands and television channels in Mumbai and Pune

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