A day after the fate of 3,559 candidates was locked in electronic voting machines political parties were going all out to woo Independents and smaller parties to get the numbers required to form the next government.
Assuming that there could be a hung Assembly, the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) combine and the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have begun reaching out independent candidates who stand a chance of winning.
“We have started getting in touch with independents who are in a position to win. Their help will be vital in formation of the next government,” a senior Shiv Sena functionary who has been dialing the numbers of probable independent winning horses all day, said.
However, both sides refuse to openly admit that they will need support to form the government. “We will win comfortably and form the government on our own,” said Chief Minister Ashok Chavan.
State BJP President Nitin Gadkari said: “We will get a majority in these elections. There is no need of wooing anyone. People who support our policies will join us.”
Smaller parties and Independents constitute nearly 11 per cent — 32 seats — of the present Assembly’s total strength. Pollsters predict their strength could now be between 20 and 40 and would play a key role in forming the government in case of a fractured mandate.
The small but important players include Vinay Kore’s Jan Surajya Shakti, Raju Shetti’s Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna and factions of the Republican Party of India.
Though Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena is expected to win some seats, it could be a tricky ally for both combines. The Sena would not want the MNS while the Congress has already announced that it would not want to partner with Raj Thackeray’s party.
The party’s chief ministerial candidates are also locked in a tussle to get more Independents and smaller parties on their side though they are unsure who will get the top job.
Political commentator Pratap Thorat said the Congress should continue with Chavan. “But then the party rejected Sushil Kumar Shinde in 2004 and brought in Deshmukh from nowhere.”
Ex-Sainik Narayan Rane held office towards the end of the Sena-BJP regime. Deshmukh replaced Rane after the Congress and NCP formed the first coalition government in 1999.