Who will be next Maharashtra CM: The results to the Maharashtra Assembly elections declared yesterday appeared to have thrown up a clear mandate in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena alliance. The stage was set for the return of Devendra Fadnavis as Chief Minister of the state for a second consecutive term, the first non-BJP CM and only the second in Maharashtra to ever achieve this feat in a state with complex caste calculations. The results declared by the Election Commission showed BJP winning 105 seats while the Sena bagged 56. The Congress won 44, ten seats less than its ally NCP.
However, the press conference by Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray — whose son Aaditya emerged victorious from Worli seat, marking the entry of the Thackeray clan into electoral politics — appeared to change many things. At the press briefing on Thursday, after it became clear that the BJP-Sena would retain power in the state, Thackeray sought to remind the BJP of the pre-poll agreement of what he termed as “the 50:50 formula” when he was quizzed about the next Chief Minister of the state. The message was loud and clear – Fadnavis’ return to CM chair would be no walk in the park.
Needless to say that the remark by Shiv Sena, given its history of reluctance to toe the BJP line, threw up an opportunity for Opposition leaders to test the waters. Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which managed to comeback of sorts, was quick to offer the chair of CM and the Deputy CM to Shiv Sena. The NCP, which contested the elections in alliance with the Congress, had managed to improve its tally to 54.
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The NDA’s reduced tally meant that the possibilities had just opened up. Sensing that the majority mark could be reached with Sena’s support, the NCP and the Congress, with a combined tally of 98, were already sending them feelers. Shiv Sena, aware of the arithmetic, is now set for a hard bargain with the saffron party. After Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray referred to the ’50-50′ power-sharing formula with the BJP, Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna also slammed ally BJP for getting lesser votes than the last assembly polls while hailing Sharad Pawar. Overnight, posters congratulating Aaditya Thackeray as ‘Future CM’ had already come up in Mumbai’s Worli.
व्यंग चित्रकाराची कमाल!
बुरा न मानो दिवाली है.. pic.twitter.com/krj2QAnGmB
— Sanjay Raut (@rautsanjay61) October 25, 2019
The NCP too jumped the scene and passed hints that it is open for a post-poll alliance with Shiv Sena. Senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal has given an open offer to Sena and said, “Shiv Sena can decide if it wants the Deputy Chief Minister post with the BJP or decides the Chief Minister’s post with us.”
The increased tally of opposition parties is a shot in the arm for them and will definitely boost their morale. If Shiv Sena joins hands with NCP-Congress, they can easily go past the magical figure of 145 with Sena still having an upper hand in the alliance. Not a bad bargaining chip if you are looking to get back into the driver’s seat in the alliance with BJP.
The Opposition is already trying to paint the Maharashtra Assembly election results as an indicator that the BJP cannot prescribe the same medicine for all ailments in every election it contests. The BJP’s campaign in Maharashtra was centred on the NDA government’s decision to scrap Article 370, implementing the national register of citizens (NRC), Pakistan-bashing, dynastic politics and corrupt opposition leaders, among others. And the Sena’s constant attacks could further dent the BJP’s halo of invincibility, not something that the BJP would like at the moment.