Seat-sharing drama adds to political suspense in Maharashtra

Seat-sharing drama adds to political suspense in Maharashtra

Whether it is Eknath Shinde or Ajit Pawar, both are clearly interested more in the Assembly elections which would perhaps be held by October 2024. The Lok Sabha poll is not their priority

Rohit ChandavarkarUpdated: Tuesday, January 09, 2024, 09:55 PM IST
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Maharashtra Vidhan Bhavan | File Photo

As the suspense over the Maharashtra Assembly Speaker's decision on the plea about the disqualification of MLAs reaches its peak, the biggest talking point among activists and leaders of all parties currently in Maharashtra is about the upcoming season of the “seat-sharing talks” for the Lok Sabha among alliance partners of the BJP-led NDA and Congress-led I.N.D.I.A alliance. The most crucial part of whether any political alliance works or not depends on how effectively and wisely the seat-sharing formula is designed. Parties from both sides of the political divide are now concerned about how to keep all members of the alliance happy and also convince the voters that they have got the correct representation in the sharing formula.

But there is immense rivalry seen among alliance partners. In the state capital, the prestigious Lok Sabha seat of South Mumbai has become a bone of contention between the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance partners Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena and the Congress party. The Shiv Sena announced that their current MP from the constituency Arvind Sawant would re-contest from this place; Congress leader Milind Deora who is former Lok Sabha MP from this constituency and a former Minister in the UPA government, publicly took objection to this, saying nobody should directly announce a candidate's name unless formal talks are held between alliance partners and a decision is taken officially, otherwise the Congress would also announce his name from the constituency. In western Maharashtra's Shirur constituency Deputy Chief Minister and NCP leader Ajit Pawar said that his party will contest the seat while alliance partner in the government CM Eknath Shinde has already said that his Shiv Sena would be taking this seat, to be contested by former MP Adhalrao Patil. In Konkan there is talk that BJP leader and state minister Ravindra Chavan would be fielded by the BJP as Lok Sabha candidate from Shirur while BJP leader and Union Minister Narayan Rane's son Nilesh Rane's supporters have almost taken it for granted that he would be the candidate for Lok Sabha for BJP from Sindhudurg seat. There is confusion among alliance partners in perhaps more than half the seats out of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra, about who will finally get which seat.

The BJP has stitched an alliance between Eknath Shinde's Shiv Sena and Ajit Pawar's NCP which are parties with no commonality in terms of their political ideology. It is very obvious that there is constant strain and political difference seen among the leaders of these parties. Last week Deputy CM Ajit Pawar addressed a rally in Thane and openly appealed to his party activists to “make Thane an NCP-dominated district”. Knowing very well that Thane happens to be alliance partner CM Eknath Shinde's home turf, Ajit Pawar saying this openly to his followers caused some ripples. It is clear that there is rivalry, competition and posturing happening between NCP and Sena leaders even as they share power in the government and work together in the same state cabinet. Ajit Pawar has not openly mentioned any number of seats that his party expects or wants to be given in the seat-sharing formula between his party, BJP and Eknath Shinde's party, but it is believed that in about 11 Lok Sabha seats there is a clash of interest between him and the alliance partners.

Whether it is Eknath Shinde or Ajit Pawar, both are clearly interested more in the Assembly elections which would perhaps be held by October 2024. The Lok Sabha poll is not their priority, as they will only play second fiddle to the BJP here, yet this posturing is happening between them because they know their bargaining power in the Assembly polls will be determined on the basis of what percentage of votes they can garner in support of the BJP in the Lok Sabha contest which happens perhaps in just three months from now. Recent opinion polls suggesting that the Congress-Uddhav-Sharad Pawar alliance known as Maha Vikas Aghadi or MVA still has an edge over the BJP-led NDA in Maharashtra has disturbed the leaders a bit.

Amidst all this Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narvekar is going to give his verdict today on the plea for disqualification of MLAs of the Eknath Shinde group. Political sources say the chances of the Speaker endorsing the disqualification are slim and he might either refer the matter to the Supreme Court or find some technical ground on which he will reject the disqualification plea. The Speaker may announce any decision on the MLA disqualification plea on Wednesday on which one of the parties may approach the Supreme Court in appeal, so the matter may continue for some time. But just in case he disqualifies some MLAs of the ruling Shiv Sena, it will cause a huge disturbance in the political establishment and will also have an impact on the all-important seat-sharing talks between partners.

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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