With the way things are going, the Assembly polls might just see a multi-corner battle. With just six days to go for the last date to file candidate nominations, political equations in the state seem to be fluid with both major alliances looking in different directions.
If the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) don’t get their act together, the state will see a multi-corner contest for the first time since 1999, when the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) was formed.
The elections could become a free for all if the Congress and NCP follow suit and contest solo as well. This is quite likely considering the trust between the allies is at an all-time low. Behind the scenes, there has been tepid preparation for this kind of an eventuality with both the regional parties, Shiv Sena and the NCP, playing hard ball on seat-sharing negotiations from Day 1. If the Assembly polls turn into a four- or five-corner contest, there will be a very thin line between former friends and foes.
Sena strategists admit that in a face-off with the BJP, the campaign will target the party on divisiveness and the issue of a separate Vidarbha besides Maharashtrian pride.Congress is looking to corner the NCP over corruption if at all it finds its ally on the opposite side of the fence. Sources in the NCP admit that if the party contests the polls solo, it will poach sitting Congress candidates.
“It will be better if we all contest separately. We have got enough feedback that the NCP’s negative image on corruption allegations is a burden on us,’’ said a senior Congress leader.
However, political observers feel there is still scope of reconciliation given that the stakes are very high in these polls. “For the BJP, this election is about Modi’s prestige. For the Sena, the fight is for existence. At the end of the day, if the saffron combine fights together, they will be close to the winning line. If not, it will be an advantage to the Congress-NCP,’’ said Surendra Jondhale, political analyst.
He also pointed out that the NCP-Congress would contest together even if the saffron alliance broke.
“The NCP stands to get wiped out if it does badly in these polls. It will not jeopardise its position. Though there is every likelihood that NCP chief Sharad Pawar could be playing a double game, by promising Uddhav his party’s support to become CM and driving a hard bargain with Congress at the same time,’’ said Jondhale.
There is also a speculation that even if the saffron allies broke up, they were likely to align with each other to form the government post elections. The other possibilities are of BJP informally tying up with the MNS and the NCP and Sena uniting to form the government.