Why Maha’s 48 seats are crucial for both BJP and INDIA bloc | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times

Why Maha’s 48 seats are crucial for both BJP and INDIA bloc

Mar 17, 2024 06:58 AM IST

Maharashtra's 48 seats crucial in NDA vs. opposition battle in India. BJP faces challenges with splits in alliances, caste polarization, and regional party defections.

MUMBAI Between North India, where the BJP is aiming to do well, and the southern part of the country where it faces a tough contest, the 48 seats in Maharashtra could be a significant factor in the war between the NDA and the opposition coalition INDIA. With the highest number of seats after UP, the state will play a crucial role in the great battle.

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In the 2014 and 2019 elections, which saw a straight fight between the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance and the Congress-NCP combine, the BJP-Sena had won 40-plus seats in Maharashtra, which comprised over 10 per cent of the BJP-led NDA’s national tally of 336 (2014) and 353 (2019).

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In this election too, the two alliances are pitted against each other but the difference is that the Sena and the NCP have, in the meantime, been vertically split, and the majority of their MLAs have defected to the NDA camp.

Despite these odds, INDIA is banking on a good show in Maharashtra.

“If we manage to win 20-odd seats, the NDA’s tally will reduce by that much at the national level,” said a senior Congress leader. “If various other factors, including anti-incumbency, work and the ruling coalition fails to get the desired number of seats in Central and North India, things could go wrong for them.”

The Shiv Sena-BJP-NCP alliance is aiming to win 45 seats in Maharashtra. BJP leaders are confident of putting up a good show since the strength of the opposition has been severely depleted with the splits in the Sena and NCP. Going by the number of MLAs (over 200 out of 288) and MPs (38 out of 48) on their side, the election should be a cakewalk for the ruling parties. However, things will not be so easy on the ground.

Prime among the reasons for this are the caste polarisation in the wake of the Maratha agitation quota and the splits in the two regional parties. “The polarisation on caste lines is unprecedented,” said political analyst Padmabhushan Deshpande. “No politician has a clear idea of what the impact of the Maratha-versus-OBC polarisation will be. It may work for the ruling party or may even be counter-productive.”

Split in the two regional parties that had significant support among people and a number of opposition legislators joining the BJP camp are major taking points in this election. The ruling alliance is wary of the sympathy for Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray among sections of voters.

Political analyst Surendra Jondhale said that the splits in the two parties as well as the Maratha quota agitation had led to a fragmentation of voters. “Although a majority of leaders from both the parties have joined the BJP, will the traditional voters of the Shiv Sena and NCP lean towards the BJP” he asked. “This will decide the outcome of the election.” Jondhale added that the use of central agencies against political leaders and the engineered splits in the parties was a clear indication of the high stakes in the state’s 48 seats. “Maharashtra is crucial for the BJP if it wants to return to power,” he said.

One more vital factor in the election is the Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA). Despite their best efforts, Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) leaders have failed to get Ambedkar on board so far. In 2019, the VBA got 6.92 percent of the votes, which also led to the defeat of a few Congress-NCP candidates, including former CMs Ashok Chavan and Sushilkumar Shinde. If the VBA contests separately, it will be good news for the BJP, as the VBA could eat into the MVA’s vote share.

Besides national issues, the agrarian crisis in the state, unemployment, especially in rural areas, and communal polarisation will also determine the outcome of the Lok Sabha results. The latter will also set the tone for the assembly elections to be held later this year.

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    Shailesh Gaikwad is political editor and heads the political bureau in Hindustan Times' Mumbai edition.In his career of over 20 years, he has covered Maharashtra politics, state government and urban governance issues.

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