The state election for Maharashtra’s legislative assembly is scheduled to be held on October 21, 2019. Maharashtra has 289 seats in its assembly, out of which 288 are elected by the people and one is nominated by the Governor. Currently, 217 of those are occupied by the ruling alliance of BJP (142 seats) and Shiv Sena (75 seats). As per their seat-sharing pact, the Sena will contest 124 seats, leaving the rest for BJP (164).
The Balasaheb Thorat-led Indian National Congress, with 27 seats and Sharad Pawar led-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), with 29 seats, form the main opposition parties and have entered a pre-poll alliance with each other. Maharashtra politics has been largely dominated by these two alliances for the past two decades. Some of the other parties in the state include Peasants and Workers Party of India, Bahujan Vikas Aghadi, AIMIM, Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, Samajwadi Party, CPI(M).
While the present Chief Minister of the state, BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis, is contesting from Nagpur, the Congress also has two erstwhile CMs, Ashok Chavan and Prithviraj Chavan, contesting the polls from Bhokar and Karad respectively. The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance will hope to strengthen its bastions in the state, while the Congress-NCP hopes to better their numbers in an effort to regain their influence in the state.
Shiv Sena’s Aditya Thackeray is contesting the polls from Worli, Mumbai. This makes him one of the youngest leaders in the country to partake in the great Indian democratic experiment. It looks like the Shiv Sena wishes to place Thackeray in the CM’s chair, as it seems to be tired of playing the sidekick to the BJP.
Sena MP Sanjay Raut met Pawar in an attempt to convince him to not field a candidate against the Thackeray scion, reminding him of the time when Sena supremo Bal Thackeray refused to field a candidate against Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule in 2006. Refusing to return the favour, the NCP has announced its decision to field Suresh Mane in Worli. The Sena doesn’t seem too worried about this because of their Machiavellian move to induct Sachin Ahir into their party. Ahir, formerly in the NCP, would have proved to be a tough opponent had he contested from Worli. With him out of the way, Thackeray’s path has definitely become smoother.
A study conducted by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) showed that the BJP spent nearly four times as much as its nearest rival, Congress in the 2014 assembly elections in Maharashtra. The saffron alliance clearly has many advantages—money, political bigwigs, polarising Hindutva sentiments, and its incumbent status. But the alliance has always been marred by rocky patches—infighting and difference of opinion have led to the Sena publicly lambasting the BJP (most recently, they were at loggerheads with each other about the issue of tree-felling at Aarey Milk Colony in Mumbai, to accommodate a Metro car shed).
Only five months ago, the BJP claimed a stunning victory in the 2019 Legislative Council (Lok Sabha) elections, with a majority of 303 seats by itself, and 353 seats if we consider its allies in the NDA (National Democratic Alliance). It remains to be seen if the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance will be able to pull off a repeat of that historic win in Maharashtra.
Note: The author is part of the current batch of the Writer’s Training Program.