By Shreya Sharma:
Seated in the Western region of India, the state of Maharashtra has long been a Congress-inclined state. A peek at the state’s history of Chief Ministers reveals that out of the 17 elected CMs in Maharashtra, only 2 have belonged to a party other than the Congress. The Congress and Nationalist Congress Party alliance faced the worst defeat in its history during the ‘Modi wave’ of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The Bhartiya Janata Party, on the other hand, has had a loose hold over Maharashtra. BJP’s alliance with the Shiv Sena has always managed to get over 40 out of the total 288 seats in Maharashtra. However, the same alliance has restricted the BJP from contesting on 160 odd seats, including Mumbai, Konkan, and the Thane region, where Shiv Sena secures its cadre base.
The Maharashtra of 2014 has experienced a hurricane in its political scenario. The foremost change in the political game is the breaking of 2 grand alliances in the state. The BJP ended its 25 year old alliance with the Shiv Sena, while the Congress diffused its 15 year old alliance with NCP. Following the split in the alliance, Prithviraj Chavan of the Congress party stepped down from the post of the CM, due to which President’s Rule had to be applied to the state on 28th September, 2014. It is the first time since 1999 that Maharashtra will see a multi—cornered contest between 5 prominent parties — BJP, Congress, Shiv Sena, NCP and MNS.
The anti — incumbency wave against the Congress led alliance was made evident during the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections. While the face of Modi has worked in favour of BJP in Maharashtra, there are also quite a few factors which have worked against Congress and its alliance. First, allegations of corruption against several former Ministers from NCP (like Chhagan Bujbal and Ajit Pawar) along with the Irrigation Scam have worked against the former ruling government. Second, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has brought the development in Maharashtra in the past 15 years under scrutiny. The other parties, however, have countered BJP by alleging the party of a bias towards Gujarat, the neighbouring state of Maharashtra.
The political turmoil in the state makes it tough to predict how the assembly polls would turn out to be. According to the various estimates made by News organisations, the BJP is expected to take over Maharashtra with 95-150 out of the 288 seats. The India Today-Cicero Opinion Poll predicts around 130 seats in favour of the BJP, with Shiv Sena emerging as the second dominant party, grabbing around 60 seats. After the voting on the 15th of October, the exit polls only strengthen the prediction of the opinion polls. The BJP is expected to get more than double the seats it secured in the 2009 assembly elections. The Congress and the NCP, however, are expected to face a serious decline in their seats.
If BJP manages to gain absolute majority by touching the 145 mark, it wouldn’t need to seek post—poll alliances. Considering that BJP has hardly made any anti-Sena remarks during its campaigning, the chances of a re-union between BJP and Sena remain bleak, but possible if Sena agrees to give up on its Chief Ministerial ambition.
19th October, 2014 will decide how the course of Maharashtra turns out to be.