BJP Looking To Calibrate Its Maharashtra Strategy For Assembly Polls

BJP Looking To Calibrate Its Maharashtra Strategy For Assembly Polls

The minority votes getting consolidated in favour of the Congress party in Maharashtra has given the BJP an unexpected surprise

Rohit ChandavarkarUpdated: Thursday, June 20, 2024, 03:00 PM IST
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Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) supporter wave the party flag during a rally. | ANI

It was an important day for the Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday as Maharashtra Deputy CM and the BJP’s most powerful strategist in the state, Devendra Fadnavis, held discussions with the party’s central leadership about how to proceed for the upcoming state Assembly elections. The central agenda at these discussions is about how to ensure the transfer of votes between candidates fielded by the BJP and its alliance partners as the feeling right now is that vote transfer has somehow not happened in the Lok Sabha polls especially in the case of Ajit Pawar’s NCP and the BJP.

A setback for the BJP in Maharashtra in the Lok Sabha polls has been taken very seriously by the party high command. What went wrong in Vidarbha which is the party’s bastion, how did the vote transfer between alliance partners not take place in Western Maharashtra which is NCP’s home turf and why even in a city like Mumbai where the party won all six seats last time, this time the performance was dismal? Are some of the main questions being discussed by the party high command with the state leadership.

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Ministers Ajit Pawar and Devendra Fadnavis in conversation.

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Ministers Ajit Pawar and Devendra Fadnavis in conversation. | ANI

Some party insiders say that the assessments show that the vote transfer did not take place between Ajit Pawar’s candidates mainly because of two reasons. Firstly, because the political ideological gap between Ajit Pawar and the BJP remains wide. Ajit Pawar has insisted that he will not toe the Hindutva line of the BJP and Secondly because the grassroot workers of the NCP just have not been able to gel with those of the BJP in regions such as western Maharashtra.

In terms of their political ideology, the BJP and Ajit Pawar’s NCP remain poles apart. In the recent past since he decided to cross over to the NDA alliance, Ajit Pawar was seen avoiding attending many events held by the saffron organisations that are part of the BJP grouping; on the other hand he was seen attending many events organised by the minority community.

Ajit Pawar understands that his core vote bank includes the masses that belong to SC/CT community, minorities and other segments which are opposed to the Hindutva ideology of the BJP, and he is aware that even if he crosses over to the saffron alliance, the hard-core saffron voters may not be voting for him in any case.

The second part is about grassroots activists not gelling with each other. In western Maharashtra in every cooperative organisation there has been a harsh tussle between the NCP and the BJP. In cooperative banks, credit societies, sugar mills and educational institutions, it has been a bipolar fight between the BJP and the NCP. The activists on both sides have got completely divided. They have fought elections against each other for over two and a half decades.

Now suddenly they cannot gel with each other because the top leaders have reached an agreement to fight against the Maha Vikas Aghadi jointly. The BJP has now decided to go for a minor revamp in its Maharashtra strategy. Sources said the party has decided to further study the constituency-wise breakup of how they gained or did not gain benefits out of getting into an alliance with each partner of the Mahayuti.

Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde, along with Maharashtra Deputy CMs Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar.

Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde, along with Maharashtra Deputy CMs Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar. | ANI

Another realisation the party has arrived at, according to sources inside the BJP, is that breaking political parties and engineering defections has not gone down well with voters in Maharashtra. This realisation may have far and wide repercussions nationally as the BJP is likely to be very cautious before trying something like what happened in Maharashtra in 2022 and 2023 in other states in the future.

The minority votes getting consolidated in favour of the Congress party in Maharashtra has given the BJP an unexpected surprise. The reason the Congress party could win 13 seats in the state was only because unlike previous elections, the SC/ST and minority votes did not go to parties such as Prakash Ambedkar’s VBA or the MIM party, and went to the Congress. How to handle this new challenge is also a new point of discussion for the BJP.

The party was under the impression that the Ayodhya Ram temple and other Hindutva narrative built ahead of the elections would convert into most Hindu votes going to the BJP kitty, but that somehow did not happen in Maharashtra even in a BJP-dominated region like Vidarbha. The party is now getting into long and detailed introspection about how to change course and calibrate its strategy for the Assembly polls.

(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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