In the end, it was the break-up with the Shiv Sena that seemingly buoyed the troops, driving the BJP to its best-ever tally in Maharashtra.
Spurred on by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for a thumping majority for the party, combined with yet another demonstration of the BJP’s hyper-efficient campaign planning and execution, the party ended up with 122 of 288 seats — a number far higher than the share of seats it would have been able to contest, let alone win, in alliance with the Shiv Sena.
While still 23 crucial seats short of a simple majority, the end of the 25-year alliance has given the BJP an impressive makeover in the state. Formerly always the poor cousin when it came to seat share, it is now calling the shots.
And the shots it calls over the next few days of negotiation and alliance-building could very well redraw the political map to an even greater degree than the election has already done.
Across the state, and particularly in Vidarbha — where it campaigned on the emotional plank of separate statehood — the BJP sliced through enemy camps, making short shrift of candidates from the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party.
The fact that the latter parties used the Vidarbha issue against the BJP did not seem to affect its voteshare in other areas either.
Overall, the party doubled vote share across Maharashtra, from 14.02% in the 2009 state election to 27.8% this time around.
In Vidarbha alone, the BJP won 44 seats. The Sena, in the same region, saw its tally reduced from 8 in 2009 to 4 this time around. And the Congress, which won 24 seats in the last election, saw its tally fall to 10.
In the crucial region of central Maharashtra, the BJP upped its tally from a mere 2 to 15 of the 46 seats contested.
And, to the Sena’s dismay, the BJP also won 15 seats in Mumbai, where it fought most contests against its former ally.
Worse still, it sent sitting Sena MLAs packing with wide margins.
Party insiders said the results reflected BJP national president Amit Shah’s strategic involvement of leaders from other states, who mobilised non-Marathi voters to such as extent that the Sena even described it as a Marathi versus Gujarati issue.
So where did it lose out, particularly on that crucial tally of 245?
One area was northern Maharashtra, where a campaign led by Eknath Khadse secured only 15 seats against a target of 25, from the total of 35 seats contested.
The party’s decision to field turncoat Babanrao Pachpute (formerly of the NCP) boomeranged too, and he was defeated badly.
Parts of western Maharashtra remained insurmountable too. The BJP won 15 seats here — more than double its 2009 tally of 8 — and took down bigwigs such as former minister of state for home Satej Patil (Kolhapur South; Congress), Madan Patil (Sangli; Congress), SR Patil (Shirol; Congress).
But it failed to bring down stalwarts such as Ajit Pawar (Baramati, NCP), RR Patil (Tasgaon; NCP), Prithviraj Chavan (Karad South; Congress), Patangrao Kadam (Palus Kadegoan; Congress) and Praniti Shinde (Solapur; Congress).
Reacting to the results, Amit Shah said in Delhi: “The results have shown that the Modi wave is still intact in the country. We are committed to giving the people a good government.”