Contrary to expectations, the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party under the leadership of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has miserably failed to achieve its ambitious target of 220 plus seats in an alliance with Shiv Sena in the election to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly.
The election threw some surprises as BJP, which had bagged 122 seats in 2014 election, had to struggle to cross 100 while Shiv Sena which had bagged 63 seats won 56 seats though its bargaining power has increased. Together they have won 158 seats down 25 seats compared to 183 seats won by two parties going solo in the last election.
Even though BJP has emerged as a single largest party in the state, it is no more in commanding position but may have to cede more ground to ally Shiv Sena in Maharashtra’s power-sharing arrangement after falling well short of the majority mark by itself, Shiv Sena is negotiating for a 50:50 power-sharing formula – dividing the five-year tenure of the government, and occupying the chief minister’s office for two-and-a-half years.
One thing to BJP’s credit is that the party is set to register its first back-to-back poll victory in the state assembly election.
However, it’s a wake up call for BJP as its six ministers including the party heavyweight Pankaja Munde lost her cousin and NCP leader Dhananjay Munde in high voltge fight in Parali constituency.
BJP also receive a massive jolt from its rebels who turned out to be a spoilsport. It will now be an acid test for Fadnavis to run government with a thin majority and with Sena taking quite aggressive posture.
Further, Fadnavis may have to compromise fiscal prudence to fulfill a number of poll promises given by his party and Shiv Sena especially when the state’s public debt has reached Rs 4.71 lakh crore and revenue deficit estimated at Rs 20,000 crore in the current fiscal.
Further, BJP has to self introspect as the party has failed to continue its winning streak in its bastion Vidarbha where it had won 44 of the total 62 seats in 2014 election. However, it has failed to maintain the rally this time.
This is despite Fadnavis, union minister Nitin Gadkari and RSS network, BJP failed to ride on Modi magic and Fadnavis’ Mr Clean image in Vidarbha. Further, BJP failed to cash in on the Centre’s decision to abrogate Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and also raking up the Rashtrawad to win the majority.
(The writer is a senior journalist and commentator)