Maharashtra Election 2019: India’s second largest state Maharashtra is all set to see a direct contest between BJP-Shiv Sena alliance which bagged 41 of the state’s 48 Lok Sabha seats in the last election and the Congress-NCP combine. However, a new alliance between Dalit icon Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar and Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM adds a new dimension to the state politics.
The state is key to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s re-election bid as his party BJP emerged as the single largest party not only in 2014 Lok Sabha election but also in Maharashtra assembly elections held in October 2014.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his alliance partner Nationalist Congress Party led by veteran Maratha leader Sharad Pawar are trying to regain their lost prominence in Maharashtra politics which they ruled for 15 years from 1999-2014. However, the entry of Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aaghadi has upset their election arithmetic in the state.
After failure to forge a formal pre-poll alliance with Congress-NCP, Prakash Ambedkar, tied up his party Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh with Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM to create Vanchit Bahujan Aaghadi to contest in all 48 seats in the state. This alliance is expected to cut the votes of both BJP-Shiv Sena and Congress-NCP alliance but it will hurt the opposition alliance more.
“We tried our best to accommodate them. He started with 4 seats, then raised the demand to 6, we could have agreed for 6 seats too but he eventually asked for 12 seats then we called off the talks,” said a Congress Rajya Sabha member.
“Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aaghadi will cut our votes,” Congress Rajya Sabha member told Financial Express Online requesting not to be named.
Among the two alliance partners – Congress and NCP – it will hurt the Congress more as NCP has its own stronghold in Western Maharashtra where Vanchit Bahujan Aaghadi will not be in a position to influence the poll outcome much.
“This alliance will mainly cut Muslims and Dalit votes. It will hurt Congress and NCP. Some Dalit votes of BJP-Shiv Sena will be affected but that will not be much,” senior journalist Sunil Gatade told Financial Express Online, adding that there is a direct fight between BJP and Congress in and around Nagpur where VBA will hurt the Congress.
With its 48 Lok Sabha seats, Maharashtra is crucial for both NDA and UPA. NDA had won 41 seats (BJP 21, Shiv Sena 18) and then NDA ally Raju Shetty had won one seat in 2014 Lok Sabha election, leaving just six seats for Congress-NCP (Congress 2, NCP 4). In this election, Raju Shetty’s Swabhimani Shetkari Saghtana has joined hands with NCP and he is contesting Hatkanangle Lok Sabha seat.
Prakash Ambedkar, a three time Parliamentarian, had won two Lok Sabha elections (12th and 13th Lok Sabha) from Akola in Maharashtra with Congress support. According to the Congress Rajya Sabha member, the party was willing to give Akola Lok Sabha seat to Prakash Ambedkar to bring him on board but he refused.
“Had we fought together, we would have won Akola seat but he walked away. It will hurt us in Akola,” admitted the Congress MP.
This time, Lok Sabha Election in Maharashtra is taking place in four phases. While voting for 7 Lok Sabha seats has already taken place in the first phase on April 11, polling for remaining 41 seats will take place over three phases, 10 seats on April 18, 14 seats on April 23 and maximum 17 seats will vote in the fourth phase on April 29. And the assembly elections are due in the state before October this year.