In Maharashtra, some BJP leaders have second thoughts about alliance with NCP | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

In Maharashtra, some BJP leaders have second thoughts about alliance with NCP

Jun 14, 2024 08:44 AM IST

Maharashtra was one of the three states that dealt the biggest blow to the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the national elections

MUMBAI: An article in the Rashtriya Swayavmsevak Sangh (RSS) publication, Organiser, on the performance of Maharashtra’s Mahayuti in the Lok Sabha elections has shone the spotlight on the discomfort within a section of the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over continuing its alliance with the Ajit Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party in the assembly elections later this year.

Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde, along with Maharashtra deputy chief ministers Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar during the inauguration of second phase of Coastal Road, in Mumbai. (ANI) PREMIUM
Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde, along with Maharashtra deputy chief ministers Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar during the inauguration of second phase of Coastal Road, in Mumbai. (ANI)

Maharashtra was one of the three states, that dealt the biggest blow to the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the national elections, the first after the Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party split to team up with the BJP in June 2022.

A senior BJP leader said a decision on the next steps would be taken after the party completes its analysis of the Mahayuti’s losses in the Lok Sabha elections. He said the party was conducting a cost-benefit analysis of the alliance.

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“Ajit Pawar has 40-odd MLAs with him. Most of his MLAs come from western Maharashtra and pockets in Marathwada and north Maharashtra. The Lok Sabha results indicate that half of them could be in trouble in assembly elections. On the other hand, we are facing the ire of a section of voters over taking his faction along,” he said.

The Organiser article reflected the unease in the Sangh Parivar over the Ajit Pawar-led NCP, arguing that the alliance with Ajit Pawar’s NCP had affected BJP’s brand value.

“Maharashtra is a prime example of unnecessary politicking and avoidable manipulations. NCP faction led by Ajit Pawar joined BJP though BJP and split SS (Shiv Sena) had a comfortable majority. Sharad Pawar would have faded away in two-three years as NCP would have lost energy with infighting between cousins. Why was this ill-advised step taken?” the article, “Modi 3.0: Conversation for course correction”, published in the June 10 issue of Organiser, said.

The BJP’s initial feedback also indicated public anger over its alliance with the Ajit Pawar-led faction and Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena. While there was sympathy for Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar among the traditional voters of the two parties, many people who supported the BJP in the past indicated they were upset about inducting NCP leaders into the alliance.

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The three-party alliance, chief minister Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena and Ajit Pawar-led NCP could win 17 out of 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra while the opposition Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) won 30 seats. One seat went to an independent, Vishal Patil who supported Congress after getting elected. The BJP won only nine seats, and the Shinde-led Sena won seven seats. The NCP won only one of the four seats it contested.

Leaders such as Chhagan Bhujbal and Nawab Malik, who were arrested by central investigation agencies, were “suddenly sitting with us and running the government. This did not go down well with the voters,” the senior BJP leader quoted above said the alliance.

“We are analysing what would be beneficial for us in the assembly elections: To continue in alliance with them or to let them contest separately and cut into Sharad Pawar faction’s votes which could help us win some seats,” he added.

A second BJP leader, a state minister, said a majority of party leaders were inclined to continue the alliance with chief minister Eknath Shinde-led Sena but were sceptical about the tie-up with NCP.

“Shiv Sena was our ideological ally. As such, taking the Shinde-led faction along over the issue of Hindutva can be justified. It is not the case with Ajit Pawar,” the minister said.

“It is easy to team up with a party on ideological grounds but it is difficult to justify alliance with a faction that talks about opposite ideology,” he added.

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At a recent review meeting held by the NCP, both Ajit Pawar and Chhagan Bhujbal spoke about the need to win back the support of sections such as Dalits and minorities who had been alienated due to its alliance with the BJP.

BJP leaders said the party will assess whether the Ajit Pawar faction contesting the elections independently would hurt the prospects of the Congress and Sharad Pawar faction in the assembly elections.

“The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance has a certain vote share in western Maharashtra. If there is a triangular fight and NCP manages to damage the MVA, the equation could help us win some seats. Post-elections, they can join us if we return to power,” said the BJP functionary.

However, such a step could also be counterproductive.

Besides, Ajit Pawar has the support of a significant number of MLAs and many of them are capable of winning on their own which can be a benefit for the alliance in a tough election, he said. “And not to forget, Ajit is a prominent Maratha face. NCP is often seen as a pro-Maratha party. If Maratha reservation continues to be an issue, having NCP on our side could be an advantage,” he said.

Either way, he added that the plan would be executed closer to the assembly elections expected to be held in September-October.

Asked about the dilemma, Maharashtra BJP chief spokesperson Keshav Upadhye said Fadnavis has already said the alliance will continue. “Our party is analysing the outcome of the Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra. The reasons identified for the performance of the Mahayuti will be discussed and accordingly, the steps would be taken. The BJP has always learnt from situations it has faced and improved. That is the reason why we have grown to what we are today,” he said,

Maharashtra NCP president Sunil Tatkare said the party leaders did not get an impression of any discomfort during their recent trip to Delhi. “...We met all the senior leaders of NDA such as Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, JP Nadda and even prime minister Narendra Modi. We also had discussions with them over the poll results but did not get such a feeling from any of them.”

Shiv Sena spokesperson Krishna Hegde underscored that his party believed the NCP was an asset to the alliance. “We differ from his thoughts (in article). Ajit Pawar is a powerful leader in Maharashtra and he will be useful to Mahayuti. His induction was with the concurrence of both parties.”

(With inputs by Faisal Malik and Yogesh Naik)

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