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Will there be early elections in Maharashtra too?

The five-year term of Maharashtra assembly ends in October-November 2019 — roughly six months after the end of Lok Sabha tenure

mumbai Updated: Jan 30, 2018 11:20 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad
Shailesh Gaikwad
Hindustan Times
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis recently told the party workers to start preparing for the elections.(HT FILE)

For the past few weeks, there has been a change in the mood at the Mantralaya, the seat of Maharashtra government. There is an urgency to get the files cleared. There is greater hurry from the ruling party to put the stranded projects on track. This is in anticipation of something which was being talked about: Early elections to Lok Sabha and along with that, Maharashtra assembly.

The general feeling in the political circles is that there is likely to be early elections for Lok Sabha along with the elections to several state assemblies, probably towards the end of this year. The five-year term of Maharashtra assembly ends in October-November 2019 — roughly six months after the end of Lok Sabha tenure. Earlier, the opinion in the ruling party was that the Lok Sabha elections would be held as per schedule in early 2019 and along with that there will be polls for Maharashtra assembly. Now, since there is talk of Lok Sabha polls being advanced by the Centre, there are speculations whether the ruling party in the state will have to face the elections one year before the tenure of the Devendra Fadnavis government ends.

The speculations will now intensify further following President Ram Nath Kovind’s statement on Monday. Addressing the Parliament to mark the beginning of the budget session, President Kovind favoured simultaneous Lok Sabha and state elections.

He said frequent polls have affected development work due to promulgation of the code of conduct for elections.

In the past few days, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly stressed the need for simultaneous polls. On Monday too, he asked the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) leaders to create an environment in favour of the same.

Everybody in the ruling as well as the opposition parties is wondering whether this will really happen but they don’t want to get caught off-guard. So preparations are on.

Close aides of CM Fadnavis are denying early polls and insisting that the BJP-led government in the state will complete its full five-year term. Still, Fadnavis recently told the party workers to start preparing for the elections. It is better to be prepared, they were told. However, the underlying tone was that the elections will be coming sooner than expected.

On the other hand, the Opposition too is gearing up. Both the Congress and the NCP have planned various agitations to step up their attack on the BJP government in the state and at the Centre. NCP chief Sharad Pawar and state Congress chief Ashok Chavan have put the plan for an alliance in the state on fast track. Though Pawar was seen as BJP’s well wisher in past three years since the 2014 elections, he is now keen on NCP being a ruling party in the state, say party insiders even as a section in the Congress is still looking at the Maratha strongman’s moves with suspicion.

With the chief minister clearly avoiding any truck with the NCP, the latter has no option but to join hands with the Congress again, the Congress leaders are pointing out.

Pawar has also taken lead in bringing smaller parties together so that the Congress-NCP do not suffer owing to split in the Opposition votes. He has been meeting the leaders from the opposition at his Delhi residence. The state leaders of Congress-NCP are meeting in February to discuss how they can work out an alliance, state NCP chief Sunil Tatkare told this paper last week.

It looks like the political atmosphere is heating up even before we expected.

First Published: Jan 29, 2018 23:24 IST