While the BJP's ambition to get a shot at the Chief Ministerial chair in Maharashtra may have led to the parting of ways with its oldest ally, Shiv Sena, it was part of a larger strategy of the ruling party to build on the momentum generated by Narendra Modi wave to expand its base across the country.
Party sources said that the BJP is no longer willing to play a second fiddle to regional parties in different states as the party top brass is convinced that it is the best time for the party to go for broke.
It was because of this that the party chose to go alone in Haryana abandoning its partner Haryana Janhit Congress and refusing to re-align with the INLD, said sources. Although the BJP has sent overtures to Babulal Marandi for an alliance in Jharkhand, sources said that any pre-poll tie up would be on the BJP terms considering its long-term interest.
“The Modi wave has not lost its steam yet, some pro-development scheme by the central government has caught people’s imagination and there is huge anti-incumbency against Congress and the NCP after 15 years of rule. This is the best recipe to win Maharashtra on our own strength,” the party leader said. The BJP now hopes to make inroads in the urban pockets of Maharashtra that had been under control of its oldest ally. Party expects big gains in cities like Mumbai, Pune, Nasik and others.
With its stocks at an all time high, the BJP wanted to contest 135 seats – up from 119 seats it has been contesting – and wanted Sena to contest equal number of seats in 288-member Maharashtra assembly.
The Shiv Sena had agreed, through informal channels, to offer up to 126 seats, but the BJP wouldn't budge from its stance. “With a better strike rate of winning seats that we have as compared to the Sena, the BJP would have won more seats and hence it could have laid claim on the CM’s post. Sena knew it and was averse to conceding ground to us,” a BJP leader told HT.
He said that the party might not get a "better opportunity than now" to get a government on its own in Maharashtra, given the huge anti-incumbency against NCP-Congress government and also the continuing Modi wave across the country, notwithstanding setbacks in recent by-polls.
The aggression in the party's strategy is being attributed to BJP President Amit Shah, the "man of the match" of the Lok Sabha elections, who had failed many political pundits by virtually sweeping Uttar Pradesh through his well-crafted political and electoral strategy. He has an image of a leader who goes for the kill and the latest gambit in Maharashtra is reflective of that.
Sena is the third NDA ally – HJC of Haryana and JD(U) of Bihar– which have broken ranks with the NDA in the last one year. Interestingly, BJP’s ally from Punjab – the Shiromani Akali Dal – has an alliance with the INLD in Haryana.
Punjab goes to poll in 2017 and BJP leaders from the northern state have been complaining about the high anti-incumbency that the Punjab party is facing. The BJP and the SAD divide 117 assembly seats of Punjab in 23:94 ratio. Only time will tell whether the BJP will re-visit its strategy in Punjab also, depending on its performance in Maharashtra.