BJP-Shiv Sena take a lead while Congress-NCP yet to formally announce seat sharing pact

With the announcement of Lok Sabha poll schedule by the Election Commission of India,  political parties in Maharashtra have swung into action. Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which succeeded to stitch seat sharing deal with its partner Shiv Sena, together have already chalked out joint election campaign plan. After four years of bickering and verbal duel, the saffron parties will jointly approach voters seeking votes for resounding victory of the National Democratic Alliance for the second time in row. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray will hold four joint rallies while Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Thackeray will share dias in 12 rallies.

On the other hand, the opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party are struggling to arrive at a seat sharing arrangement due to factionalism and internal feuds in their respective cadres. Although both the parties had taken initiative about three months ago to forge anti BJP front  or Mahagathbandhan with the inclusion of like minded and secular parties in the state,  the talks are still underway as the smaller parties are playing hardball. Congress and NCP failed to arrive at a consensus on exchange of Ahmednagar and Aurangabad seats among themselves. Ultimately, the leader of opposition and veteran Congress leader Radhakrishan vikhe-Patil’s son Sujay decided to defect to BJP creating further embarrassment to his father and for the Congress party which at the national level is making efforts to take Modi and BJP headon.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar, who had political feud with Sujay’s grandfather and former minister Balasaheb Vikhe-Patil in 1990s, declined to relent hinting that he has not yet forgotten the rivalry. On its part, Congress stuck to its stand not to leave Aurangabad seat currently held by Shiv Sena to NCP. Congress and NCP have yet to jointly announce the formal seat sharing pact despite NCP’s demand for an early decision.

As far as Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana led by Raju Shetty is concerned, NCP has already reached pact with the former by leaving Hatkalangde from its quota. However, Shetty wants more as he is insisting that he should get Buldhana and Vardha seats to which NCP and Congress have refused to do so. Shetty may go alone as he has announced that he may field his nominees in at least 15 constituencies which will make Congress-NCP combine difficult to fight the saffron alliance.

Further, social reformer Babasaheb Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar, who has joined hands withAsaduddin Owaisi led All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen  (MIM) to former Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, has demanded 22 seats from Congress and NCP or else hinted that he will go field his nominees. Congress and NCP, which are still optimistic that Ambedkar will come on board, have not discontinued dialogue with Ambedkar.

Interestingly, BJP and Shiv Sena combine is busy cashing in on the division in opposition to lure disgruntled elements into their fold. After Sujay Vikhe-Patil’s induction in the BJP, the state water resources minister and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ blue eyed boy Girish Mahajan declared that sons and grandsons of Congress and NCP leaders are keen to join the saffron party. The state revenue minister Chandrakant Patil went a step ahead and hinted that there will be political earthquake in Maharashtra dropping sufficient indications that the opposition leaders will be rolled out red carpet thereby puncturing opposition’s plan to form anti BJP front.

However, Shiv Sena in its mouthpiece Saamna has warned that in an attempt to welcome opposition leaders especially by BJP the latter should not become an assured creche for those who were sulking for denial of ticket.

Furthermore, NCP president and former union minister Sharad Pawar’s u turn not to contest from Madha constituency has demoralised party rank and file. Pawar has cited that he decided to opt out paving way for his grandson and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar’s son Parth to contest from Maval seat. Pawar’s turnaround may create more problems as faction ridden NCP will find it more difficult to retain its supremacy over Madha as BJP will make every attempt to give a tough fight.

Meanwhile, Congress has given weightage to loyalists in its first list for Maharashtra. Former union minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who lost in 2014, has been renominated from Solapur, former union minister of state Milind Deora from south Mumbai, former MP Priya Dutt, who lost to BJP candidate Poonam Mahajan, has been fielded in north central, former MP Nana Patole, who left BJP to join Congress, in Nagpur against union minister of roads Nitin Gandkari and former legislator Namdeo Usendi in the naxal infested Gadchiroli. However, weak organisational set up and resources among other things will be crucial factors for Congress nominees to win the ensuing election.

Therefore, as the poll campaign gathers moment, ruling and opposition parties are expected to sharpen their attacks against each other in rallies and also by effectively using the social media. So join the festival of democracy till the final results are out on May 23.