The BJP’s central leadership is mulling over a proposal from its Maharashtra unit to hold the assembly elections along with the Lok Sabha polls as it feels a double-ticket election coupled with the overarching appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi will work in the party’s interest.
The assembly elections are due in October 2024, but the state BJP wants them advanced to coincide with the Lok Sabha polls due in April-May next year.
Leveraging PM Modi's Appeal
According to a member of the council of ministers familiar with the state’s electoral strategy, timing the assembly polls with the general election where the PM’s appeal and national issues will also weigh on voters’ minds, could influence voters for both the battles when they enter polling booths.
The BJP is also keen to use the simultaneous state and LS polls to amplify the fissures in what it believes is a fragile and opportunistic opposition alliance between the Congress, Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena and a section of the NCP.
Fragility of the MVA Alliance
“The MVA troika may hang together and survive till the elections are announced, but we don’t see them lasting beyond it. They may possibly implode even during the campaign as the parties will throw their weight beyond their own candidates,” he said, adding that it is difficult to expect Sharad Pawar and NCP to play second fiddle to the two other parties for too long.
A Maharashtra BJP leader analysed, “There are several seats and areas, like the Lok Sabha seat of South Central Mumbai where the Shiv Sena (UBT) and the Congress will both be claimants; or Shirdi, where all the MVA constituents will be claimants; or even Marathwada where the NCP and Shiv Sena (UBT) will compete for seats and influence. Add the complication of seat sharing for Assembly segments over Lok Sabha, and there could be a situation where there would be two rebel candidates for every official candidate.”
BJP's Equation with Shiv Sena
Behind the thinking is also the BJP’s own uncertain equation with the Shiv Sena faction of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. The BJP feels that while the alliance could form a government in the state, a narrative for a victory was still elusive and a struggle to be the dominant partner is on, as evidenced by state unit BJP chief Chandrakant Bawankule’s statement that the BJP would contest 240 seats in the assembly polls next year and give the remaining 48 seats to Shiv Sena, with no mention of the independents.
This statement has ignited a row, and even though state minister Chandrakant Patil tried to do damage control, the Shiv Sena led by Shinde has become wary of being given the short shrift. In such a scenario, a double-ticket election will help paper things over.