Will The Alliances In Maharashtra Stay Together Ahead Of Assembly Polls?

Will The Alliances In Maharashtra Stay Together Ahead Of Assembly Polls?

The saffron alliance is not the only group that sees this kind of uneasiness in its constituents. A similar tussle and competition is seen in the Maha Vikas Aghadi too

Rohit ChandavarkarUpdated: Wednesday, June 12, 2024, 10:38 PM IST
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Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Dy CM Ajit Pawar | File

As leaders of various parties in Maharashtra get into the exercise of analysing Lok Sabha results, there are obvious signs of a new tussle emerging between them. Interestingly this trend is seen on both sides of the political divide. The Mahayuti led by the Bharatiya Janata Party is now dealing with a tussle between Eknath Shinde and Ajit Pawar’s NCP, while on the other side there is similar competition between Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena, Sharad Pawar’s NCP and Rahul Gandhi’s Congress party too.

Outwardly it seems that Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena has done well in the Lok Sabha polls by winning seven seats. There were apprehensions within the party that some kind of a sympathy wave for Uddhav Thackeray would perhaps hamper the chances of their candidates doing well in many parts of Maharashtra. However, their strike rate has been close to 50%. Shinde’s party contested 15 seats and ended up winning seven. This made Shinde think that he might be getting at least two cabinet portfolios in the central government. However the BJP has given Shinde’s party only one junior minister’s post.

Ajit Pawar’s NCP contested four seats in the Lok Sabha elections and the party could win only one seat. They expected one cabinet portfolio in the new government but were offered only a junior minister’s position which they refused to take.

Now Shinde as well as Ajit Pawar seem to be sulking, and the BJP seems no more inclined to accept their demands. There are two clear effects of both the BJP’s state alliance partners not doing well in the Lok Sabha polls. Firstly there is a lot of fear among the MLAs about their prospects in the upcoming Maharashtra Assembly elections, and secondly the BJP seems to have got the feeling that these alliance partners have not really added much value in terms of the political gains that were expected. This situation has resulted in a strange rift — not just between BJP and the two alliance partners, but also between Shinde’s Shivsena and Ajit Pawar’s NCP.

Sources say that Pawar and Shinde have cut practically all communication between them, and the BJP has to act as mediator between the two parties. On Monday Sena leaders met at the official residence of the chief minister and complained that Ajit Pawar was not releasing the funds that they require for their work in the constituencies. A senior party functionary said that Shinde is now retaliating by holding back some of the important files that Ajit Pawar wants to get cleared.

While this tussle is between Shinde and Pawar, the BJP's state level think tank is assessing exactly what value was added in terms of political gains by taking along Shinde and Pawar in these elections. One senior BJP leader said that the BJP’s alliance with Shinde’s Sena had resulted in more gains for Shinde and less for the BJP itself. “Why should we offer Shinde cabinet portfolios in the union government when we have given him the chief ministership to begin with, and also gave 15 seats in the Lok Sabha polls?” said this BJP leader.

The saffron alliance is not the only group that sees this kind of uneasiness in its constituents. A similar tussle and competition is seen in the Maha Vikas Aghadi or MVA too. The MVA’s overall performance has been better than what was expected — especially that of the Congress party. Nobody would ever anticipate that the Grand Old Party would win 14 out of 48 Lok Sabha constituencies in Maharashtra. This has given the party a lot of confidence. And leaders are now seen making statements about getting the maximum number of tickets in the seat-sharing formula for the Assembly polls.

This has not gone down too well with Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena. “We don’t think anybody should make any claim about getting more seats in the Assembly seat-sharing formula. Nobody is the big brother or nobody is the elder or younger brother in our alliance. We must wait till we finalise all the seat-sharing and avoid making public statements,” said Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut. The root cause of the strife between the alliance partners seems to be about how seats will be shared ahead of the Assembly polls. It is ironic that the alliance which has not done well in the recent polls is showing cracks between partners, and the alliance which has done well in the polls is also experiencing exactly the same situation. Now there is also talk about some MLAs from the Ajit Pawar group getting fearful about the political situation in the state and approaching Sharad Pawar’s NCP to discuss prospects of returning to the Pawar camp. It is clear that Ajit Pawar is showing signs of restlessness.

The BJP’s realisation that they have not gained much by taking Ajit Pawar along is damaging for him. The grassroots workers of the BJP in western Maharashtra have been very unhappy about Ajit Pawar’s inclusion in the saffron alliance. Now everything depends on how the state assembly seat sharing negotiations go between Ajit Pawar’s NCP and the BJP. There is uncertainty about who will get how many seats, and the BJP is likely to demand close to 150 seats. Since all three partners of the saffron alliance are seemingly unhappy with each other there is a distinct possibility that they might fight the assembly polls separately and keep open the option of a post-poll alliance.

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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