How coalition politics has dominated Maharashtra since 1995

Significant events took place in Maharashtra in the past few days, which even changed the dynamics of state politics. The current political scenario in Maharashtra where no political party has been able to muster the magical figure so far. The BJP has backed out and now its pre-poll ally, the Shiv Sena, is exploring options of forming a government with the support of Sharad Pawar’s NCP and Congress MLAs.

It has been decade now that Maharashtra’s politics is dominated by the four parties—Congress, BJP, Shiv Sena and NCP. The Sena-BJP could win the assembly elections in 1995 because of their alliance. Contesting together in 2004 and 2009, the Congress-NCP won assembly elections and bagged more Lok Sabha seats.

It was also observed in the past that the chances of Congress-NCP victory increased when they took along smaller secular parties that normally eat into their share of votes. In 1998 Lok Sabha elections, Sharad Pawar (who was then in the Congress) had put together a coalition of Congress, Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal (S), PWP and four different factions of Republican Party of India. The coalition had won 38 out of 48 seats.

Sharad Pawar has been a significant personality in state and national politics. After his second parting from the Congress party in 1999, Sharad Pawar formed the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) but joined a Congress-led coalition to form the state government after the 1999 Assembly elections.

The Congress party enjoyed a nearly unchallenged dominance of the state political landscape, until 1995 when the coalition of Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) secured an overwhelming majority in the state, beginning a period of coalition governments. Shiv Sena was the larger party in the coalition. From 1999 until 2014, the NCP and INC formed one coalition while Shiv Sena and the BJP formed another for three successive elections, which the INC-NCP alliance won.

The 2014 state assembly elections resulted in the formation of a BJP-Shiv Sena coalition government with BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis as the Chief Minister. The BJP and Shiv Sena could not arrive at a seat-sharing agreement before the elections and had contested separately. However, they both joined hands to form the coalition government post the result. The BJP had won 122 seats and Shiv Sena had won 63 seats.

The hot-and-cold relationship the BJP has had with its one of the oldest alliance partners Shiv Sena is not something new: the alliance has met dead-ends many times in the last 30 years. The Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party first stitched an alliance in 1989 for the Lok Sabha and assembly elections in Maharashtra. The two first formed the government in Maharashtra in 1995 and remained in power till 1999 with Manohar Joshi as its first chief minister.

The Shiv Sena's plans to take power in Maharashtra after ending its alliance with long-term partner BJP are on hold with the Congress holding the key. Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), invited yesterday by the Governor to form a government after the BJP and Shiv Sena failed to do so, also waited as Congress chief Sonia Gandhi held consultations long after telling Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on the phone that she would get back to him.

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