The Bharatiya Janata Party has been left battered and bruised after registering its second-worst performance in Maharashtra in two decades.
From the heady days of winning 65 seats in 1995, the party has sunk to a meager 47.
“We accept defeat. It is time for us to go back to the drawing board and reach out to the people with new vigour,” state BJP president Nitin Gadkari said on Thursday.
Even though Gadkari is seen by many as an ideal chief minister, the party is finding it difficult to translate this good will into votes.
The party is also battling infighting between Gadkari and senior party leader Gopinath Munde, the apathy of hardcore Hindutva activists disappointed with the party after their cause was dropped and a populace that seems reluctant to change power equations in the state government.
The gradual deterioration of the Shiv Sena, the BJP’s partner in this two-decade-old alliance, has also hurt the latter’s chances.
But many believe the Sena’s downward spiral and the emergence of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena could be a good thing for the BJP.
“The BJP can now try to carve out a separate political space for itself,” said political analyst Surendra Jondhale. “There are chances that the party may drift away from the Sena and join hands with the MNS.”
Raj Thackeray may have foreseen this possibility, recently saying that his party is open to the idea of Nitin Gadkari as chief minister.
As of now, though, the BJP is staying with the Sena.
“The question of breaking off with the Sena doesn’t arise,” said Gadkari. “We have been in association for two decades and we will continue being together.”