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Maharashtra: MVA Cementing, Mahayauti Disintegrating

Maharashtra: MVA Cementing, Mahayauti Disintegrating

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, June 18: With the State Assembly elections in Maharashtra round the corner, the ruling “Mahayuti” alliance seems to be in shambles while buoyed by the good showing in the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections, the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) partners are further cementing ties to provide a united fight against the BJP-led alliance.

The worst-hit likely to be the Nationalist Congress Party faction led by Mr Ajit Pawar who has become a persona non grata for both the camps. The BJP leadership is learnt to be reweighing its alliance with the deputy chief minister-led faction of the NCP, while the veteran leader and founder-president of the NCP, Mr Sharad Pawar has said he would not accept his nephew back in the party. It was even though his grandson Rohit Pawar has claimed that nearly 20 of the NCP MLAs who had gone with Mr Ajit Pawar want to return to the Sharad Pawar and might make the move after the completion of the monsoon session of the state Assembly next month.

After the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in a recent article ascribed the BJP’s poor performance in Maharashtra to its alliance with Mr Ajit Pawar’s party, dissonant chords are now being sounded by the Maharashtra BJP leadership over the need to keep up the alliance with the NCP faction ahead of the crucial Assembly election later this year.

According to sources, Maharashtra BJP leaders, as well as leaders from Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena faction, are particularly unhappy with the lack of vote transfer in Assembly segments held by NCP MLAs. Mr Shinde was all along had opposed the BJP move to break into the NCP and had at one time threatened to walk out of the alliance if Mr Ajit Pawar joined the Mahayuti government, but was forced to swallow the bitter pill as the BJP ignored his threat and went ahead with luring the nephew to split the NCP,

At the BJP’s review meet in Mumbai last week to take stock of the party’s dismal Lok Sabha performance, a number of leaders are reported to have complained to the State brass that their alliance with Mr Ajit Pawar’s ideologically opposed NCP had sent out a “negative message” to the public and had cost the BJP dearly on several key Lok Sabha seats.

The BJP, in alliance with the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena and Mr Ajit Pawar’s NCP, was forced to eat humble pie in the Lok Sabha election, being reduced to a single digit figure in the State after winning just nine of the 29 seats contested — down by 14 seats when compared with its tally of 23 in 2019.

The alliance with Mr Ajit Pawar’s NCP is being singled out as the prime factor, particularly in the BJP’s defeats in western and northern Maharashtra. After a shotgun marriage with the NCP in July 2023, when Mr Ajit Pawar split his uncle Sharad Pawar’s party, it appears Maharashtra BJP leaders now want to sue for a divorce.

Apart from the BJP’s Mumbai ‘chintan baithak’ last week, several BJP leaders — either defeated candidates or those whose leaders were in-charge of campaigning in seats where the saffron party lost — met with RSS members in Pune’s Motibaug on Monday.

Leaders like Bharti Pawar, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil (whose son Sujay Vikhe lost the Ahmednagar seat), Gopichand Padalkar, Chandrakant Patil, among others held a day-long meeting with RSS leaders to take stock of their poll rout and focus on future strategies, among them being the need for an alliance with the NCP, sources said.

State BJP leaders claim half-hearted campaigning by the Ajit Pawar-led CP caused defeats on several seats. Similarly, the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena MP from Maval, Shrirang Barne, had openly said soon after the election that the cadre of Mr Ajit Pawar’s NCP faction had put on a less than honourable showing. While NCP (Ajit Pawar faction) spokesperson Umesh Patil admitted that the required vote transfer did not take place in a number of segments, he dismissed talk of cracks within the ruling Mahayuti.

“The reality is that the public did not listen to us despite our best efforts to convince them to vote for our candidates. Just as in 2014, there was a wave in favour of Narendra Modi, so this time, several sections among farmers, Muslims and the merchant classes turned against us. That said, all three parties stand united in the Mahayuti and all our leaders have jointly accepted responsibility for this defeat,” Mr Umesh Patil had claimed. But the reality may be different.

In contrast, the MVA after declaring that the three alliance partners, the Congress, Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray) faction and NCP of Mr Sharad Pawar would contest the elections together, the partners have indicated that they would also release a joint manifesto to contest the elections.

The Congress leader Prithviraj Chauhan had earlier stated that talks on seat sharing had already started among the MVA partners and all the seats would be decided amicably based on the winnability of the candidates and the present ground situation instead of depending on historical data.

In the recently held general elections, the MVA performed better than the ruling Mahayuti alliance in the state. The MVA secured 30 of the 48 seats, which has given them high hopes for the upcoming state assembly polls. Consequently, all three parties have decided to expedite their poll preparations.

A source in the MVA said, “The alliance partners feel people have high expectations from them. While drafting the manifesto, they will ensure that all stakeholders across communities get equal and fair representation.” Sources further said the MVA will constitute a manifesto committee to study and draft the joint manifesto for the alliance. This committee will have representation from all parties in the alliance. It is not yet clear who will lead the committee and how many members it will have. Issues of farmers may be key in this manifesto, said the source.

When the MVA established their government after the 2019 state polls, they had created a common minimum programme, agreed upon by all stakeholders of the alliance, leading to the formation of the MVA and the state government. A source within the MVA said a similar programme is likely to be chalked out by the MVA before the Assembly elections.



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