3-party coalition: New chapter in state’s history
The alliance of the three parties – Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress – is historical, and politically significant. The three parties— all founded in Mumbai – have different ideologies. The Congress and NCP follow secular ideology, while the Shiv Sena was founded to “give justice to Marathi manoos” and later adopted hardline Hindutva.
The three parties are now coming together to counter BJP’s aggressive politics. In past five years, the BJP tried to end the existence of the Congress-NCP in Maharashtra and also tried to cut the Shiv Sena to size.
Coming together of these three different parties is likely to have implications on Maharashtra politics.
Logically, the three partners of Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi will have to stick together as long as the BJP remains as dominant as it is now. This could lead to realignment of forces in state politics.
For almost three decades, state’s politics was a direct fight between two alliances of parties with similar ideologies – the Congress-NCP on one side and Shiv Sena-BJP on the other.
No matter what the reasons being cited are, but the BJP and Shiv Sena parted ways because both of them were feeling stagnant in their alliance. Both parties wanted to grow, but they couldn’t because of the constraints of sharing the same voter base. Now the Shiv Sena is likely to change its politics to expand its base. It is likely that Uddhav Thackeray will adopt a moderate agenda, with an aim to reach a wider audience.
“Uddhav Thackeray has quietly changed his focus in the past few years. The Shiv Sena is now talking about farmers, rural issues, along with developmental politics that has more currency in urban areas. He will now focus more on expanding the party across the state,” said political analyst Padmabhushan Deshpande.
The NCP and Congress may not have problem with this because both the parties think the alliance could help them as well.
“In the past five years, the ruling BJP was systematically targeting us in a manner to end our existence in several parts of the state. We have stopped that by wresting power from the BJP in state. An alliance with the Sena can damage us in some ways, but we think it will help us more than that,” said a top NCP leader, who did not want to be named. “It will also help us, especially the Congress, to dilute its pro-minorities image, as we are tying up with a party like Shiv Sena,” he added.
In Maharashtra, the NCP’ support base is mostly the Maratha community. In case of the Congress, it is Marathas and a combination of minorities, Dalits (especially neo-Buddhists) and tribals. On the other hand, the Shiv Sena and BJP enjoy solid support among Other Backward Classes and Hindu castes under the Scheduled Caste category. Geographically, the Congress and NCP are weak in major cities, including the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, while the Sena is strong in these areas.
“The three partners are compatible with each other. If they stick together and plan strategically they can benefit from support base of each other,” said Deshpande. “It may even become a strong combination in electoral politics,” he added.
This however has a flip side. Coming together of these parties leaves the entire Opposition space for the BJP. “The development will work in our favour as we will now aggressively claim the entire Opposition space,” former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said soon after the three-party alliance was announced.
The BJP leaders also think the Hindutva brand of politics has more takers among voters and as such, they stand to benefit as the BJP won’t have to share that space with the Sena now.
“The three-party alliance forming the government is surely a turning point in Maharashtra politics. The Sena has an urban face, while the Congress, NCP are largely rural parties. They can have a strong combination. The BJP, on the other hand, will get the benefit of occupying the entire opposition space,” said Hemant Desai, a political analyst. “However, the BJP will have to think how to counter the combination of three parties which is coming together in the name of farmers,” he added. The realignment could also open opportunities for two marginalized players in state politics—Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi. The Opposition space is not crowded and as such they could benefit if they raise certain issues and pursue them aggressively.