This will be the first election ever and we can say anywhere in India where every key party celebrated the results — the BJP for returning to power in Maharashtra; Shiv Sena for retaining its position despite being in BJP-dominated alliance; Congress for surviving the onslaught of the BJP; and NCP for turning the tide of party defectors and teaching them a lesson by bettering its tally of 2014 by 13 seats.
The only difference is that the BJP’s joy couldn’t turn into jubilation. When the trends started pouring in, the BJP which had already prepared to celebrate at its party headquarters went quite as trends were not as encouraging as they had expected.
The BJP had won 122 seats on its own in 2014, but this time it managed to secure only 105 seats, a loss of 17 seats.
The incumbent party was quite confident of a bigger victory than 2014. Even modest BJP leaders were claiming that they will get 130 to 135 seats minimum out of 164 candidates who were contesting on lotus symbol. Interestingly, the BJP gave way for the incoming of 20-odd leaders from Congress and NCP — some even incumbent MLAs — because they wanted to improve its performance in western Maharashtra, known Sharad Pawar bastion.
The BJP had thought they will manage to retain their earlier tally and the new entrants from the NCP and Congress will give them extra 10 odd seats to reach to figure of 135 to 140 giving them chance to be able to form the government on its own if required. What they failed to notice is that the BJP’s own bastion Vidarbha was on shaky grounds.
In 2014, where the BJP had won 47 seats on its own in the Vidarbha region, the BJP and Shiv Sena together won 51 out of 64 seats.
This time the BJP’s performance slid down to 28, whereas Shiv Sena retained its tally of four — together they were at 32, down by 19 seats. Out of which, eight seats were lost due to rebels, whereas, the Congress managed to increase its tally to 16 and the NCP to six from 10 and one, respectively in 2014.
The BJP, which concentrated more on the centralised campaign, overlooked the dissent within its own cadre. The party leadership seems to have also not realised that despite massive victory in the Lok Sabha elections, for the local assembly elections, they do need smaller regional leadership.
Several local leaders, who hold influence in seats in their region, were given a cold shoulder like Chandrakant Bawankule, who was power minister in the Fadanvis cabinet but was denied the ticket without giving any reason. It came as a shock to the cadre, Bawankule comes from influential Teli’ community from Vidarbha, which also affected some of the seats.
On the other hand, the NCP had a lot of things to be cheerful about after the results. The party had seen tough past two months. Factors like cases against party leadership like Ajit Pawar, Praful Patel as well as the party chief Sharad Pawar and multiple defections from the party had the party worried. But, the NCP concentrated its campaign only in 90-odd seats and specifically in western Maharashtra and Marathwada.
The party also gave tickets wisely, cutting down any scope for inert party rivalry. NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s 60 rallies, specifically talking about local issues, received quite a good response, which allowed the party to do better than 2014, making it main opposition party in Maharashtra assembly.
Though the outcome of this election has kept Congress and NCP away from the power consecutively, it has surely given a chance to Shiv Sena to bargain better, when it will come to sharing power with Devendra Fadanvis.