Sena-BJP tally intact in Maharashtra

Bags 41 of 48 seats as in 2014 election; Congress wins only one seat in Vidarbha

Updated - May 24, 2019 12:54 am IST

Published - May 23, 2019 10:41 pm IST - Mumbai

Let the music begin:  Shiv Sena workers celebrating outside Sena Bhavan in Dadar on Thursday.

Let the music begin: Shiv Sena workers celebrating outside Sena Bhavan in Dadar on Thursday.

The timely decision to patch up with the Shiv Sena to avoid division of Hindu votes, letting leaders from other parties join the BJP just before the polls by catching the Opposition off-guard and the strategy to sideline the Congress during the campaign by focusing solely only on the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, seemed to have worked in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its National Democratic Alliance partners in Maharashtra.

In response, the Opposition failed to challenge and project an alternative to brand Modi.

Seats retained

The BJP-Sena alliance maintained its tally from 2014 by winning 41 out of 48 seats. The BJP and Sena won 23 and 18, the identical number of seats they won in the last general elections.

The total vote share of the BJP-Sena combine too crossed the 50% mark for the first time in Maharashtra. With the Assembly polls slated to be held within the next four months, the saffron alliance hopes to retain the State government with a similar mandate.

In its worst performance, the Maharashtra Congress won only one seat — Chandrapur in Vidarbha. In 2014 it had won just two seats. The NCP, which had hoped to cross the double digit mark in the Lok Sabha for the first time since its formation, managed to win just five seats.

Alliance rekindled

For four and half years before the elections, the Sena and the BJP had parted ways, with the former aggressively attacking the BJP despite being part of both the State and Central governments.

The party had also announced that it would be contesting all the future polls alone. However, the BJP strategically chose not to comment on any of the provocations from the Sena’s side and instead kept on insisting it would fight the polls as an alliance.

The timely intervention from election strategist Prashant Kishor led to the Sena agreeing to the BJP’s terms and the alliance was finalised in February 2018.

During an interview with The Hindu on completing four years in power, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had said that a number of Congress and NCP leaders were waiting to join the BJP.

Congress leader and Maharashtra’s Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil’s son Sujay joined the BJP after the elections were announced. The alliance fielded five turncoats and all of them won their Lok Sabha elections on Thursday.

Target NCP

Right from his first election rally in Vidarbha’s Wardha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi targeted NCP president Sharad Pawar and avoided even mentioning the Congress leadership in the State.

Mr. Pawar through his various rallies and interviews attempted to defend his party and his decision to field two of his family members for the Lok Sabha polls.

As Congress president Rahul Gandhi held barely four rallies in Maharashtra compared to eight held by Mr. Modi, the BJP managed to turn the battle as more a BJP versus NCP one.

The victory of the BJP-Sena alliance was also aided by the vote division caused by the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) — an alliance formed by Prakash Ambedkar and Asaduddin Owaisi of the AIMIM. In Solapur, Sangli, Gadchiroli, Nanded, and Buldhana, votes won by the VBA ensured defeat of the Congress and NCP candidates.

Infighting in Opposition camp

The Opposition campaign failed to take off right from the start owing to infighting and mistrust over the State leadership. In Mumbai, the Congress campaign faced setback as the city Congress chief was abruptly changed in the midst of the poll campaign. There was neither clarity on candidate selection nor was the unity of 56 political parties and organisations visible on ground. The Congress did not have a single leader with a pan-Maharashtra appeal and every candidate was left to fend for himself.

The NCP too faced problems of its own as Mr. Sharad Pawar had to withdraw his candidature at the last moment to avoid a family conflict and award the candidature from Maval to his grand nephew Parth Pawar. Apart from its 79-year-old party president, the NCP too had no leader with State-wide appeal to attract the voter. On the contrary, the BJP with Mr. Modi as its Prime Ministerial face and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis as the State-level leader, enjoyed widespread appeal.

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