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No simultaneous polls: What it means for BJP and Sena

This is a major political development as long as the state is concerned and it has political significance

mumbai Updated: Apr 10, 2018 00:17 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad
Shailesh Gaikwad
Hindustan Times
Maharashtra,Mumbai,BJP
Amit Shah made it clear that chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ government will complete its five-year tenure.(HT FILE)

There is a sigh of relief across political parties in Maharashtra as BJP chief Amit Shah has announced that there won’t be simultaneous polls for Lok Sabha and assembly in Maharashtra. Speaking at the BJP’s Foundation Day rally in Mumbai on April 6, Shah made it clear that chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ government will complete its five-year tenure. This is a major political development as long as the state is concerned and it has political significance.

First, it shows the clout of CM Fadnavis.

While there was talk of simultaneous polls and while it looked like the ruling party was preparing grounds for dissolving several assemblies to hold their elections along with the next Lok Sabha polls, Fadnavis was confident that his government in Maharashtra would complete five years.

While speaking informally, he would often insist that there was no need for simultaneous polls in Maharashtra. Shah’s announcement means Fadnavis’ bosses have accepted his stand on the issue.

Second, it probably means the BJP is cautious about a possible Congress-NCP alliance.

The two parties share the same voter-base and contesting together helps them. In 2004 and 2009, the Congress and NCP managed to win 60 to 70 seats each when the two parties contested together and won power. Their tally was a little above 40 as they contested separately in 2014 (and lost power).

Some in the BJP think separate Lok Sabha and assembly polls may give NCP chief Sharad Pawar time to reconsider his decision of a tie-up with Congress for the assembly in case BJP returns to power with a majority at the Centre.

It also means Maharashtra will again see two elections in a span of six months next year.

BJP’s call to Sena

Another major outcome of the BJP’s Foundation Day rally is the party’s call to its unruly ally Shiv Sena to join hands in the coming elections. Till a few months ago, the BJP was not willing to cede any ground to the Sena, but it seems the former does not want to take any chances now.

The difference between high expectations the people had from the BJP government and the ground reality as well as the coming together of the opposition parties has forced the BJP to reconsider its strategy.

Little wonder it is now holding out an olive branch to Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.

Just a year ago, the two parties fought a bitter battle to gain control of the Mumbai civic body when BJP vowed to end ‘the misrule of the Sena’ while the latter ran a campaign against the ‘conspiracy of the rich to grab Amchi Mumbai’.

As such, the big question now is: Will Uddhav Thackeray respond to the call?

At least on two occasions, he has publicly announced that the Sena will go solo in all future elections. First, Thackeray should be convinced that he should forge an electoral alliance with BJP. So far he has been confident of doing well going solo. His aides say the Sena chief will have to take note of the possibility of Congress-NCP alliance and its impact on the political equations in the state.

According to the BJP insiders, their party’s immediate need is the Lok Sabha elections. For this, Thackeray can point to national issues saying that India needs Modi, and work out a tie-up for Lok Sabha. The alliance for the assembly can be discussed later. Since there are no simultaneous polls in the state, this should be easier, they say.

Will the Sena followers and voters be convinced? Well, that is where the expertise of politicians comes into play.

First Published: Apr 10, 2018 00:13 IST