By Mriganka M Bhowmick
The coalition is always a compulsion; it is never a choice for peaceful co-existence to take the power sharing ahead. Political power, by its nature, is always up for grab and sharing it with any other political party hinders the organizational growth of the party. The so called coalition Dharma holds good up to the juncture where the major partner in coalition is not critically dependent on other partners in numbers. The power and vote bank consolidation are in the heart of Indian politics which usually contradicts the politics of coalition. The Maharashtra potpourri of BJP-Shiv Sena tussle is a reflection of that. The contention regarding 50:50 power-sharing between BJP and Shiv Sena is the prelude of that contraction only.
One may say that Shiv Sena is always a difficult ally of BJP as its rigid stand puts BJP in a tight spot. But it will be superficial if we analyze the present political impasse to as Uddav Thackeray’s love for his son’s anointment for Chief Minister’s post. The new emerging picture of Maharashtra politics with a lean towards regional issues must have compelled Shiv Sena to play a hard ball to regain its lost Maratha vote bank across the state. Sena failed to do its habitual politics in Maharashtra in last five years being a junior partner in the coalition. Nationalist wave of BJP with Modi appeal forced them to choose a political stand which resembled very much like BJP. As Sena was shedding away its combative Marathi politics, more space was there for grab for regional politics. Sharad Pawar gauged it correctly and translated it into seats in the election. BJP moved on national political agenda, NCP was up for regional issues and surprisingly Sena was lost in the middle.
After hard negotiation BJP and Shiv Sena agreed to contest 152 and 124 seats respectively with much dismay of Uddhav Thackeray. Out of which BJP has secured 105 seats with 70% success rate whereas Shiv Sena has bagged 56 with around 45% success rate. These are far better success percentages both for BJP and Sena in comparison to 2014 result which had been fought independently by both of them. But the success rate of Sena is just half of that of the BJP. This time poll alliance costs BJP 17 seats and Sena lost 9 seats from their 2014 tally. It signifies an erosion of support base and a waning effect of nationalistic agenda to fight a state election. In furtherance to that, Sena’s core vote banks are getting transferred to BJP and other parties and but not vice versa. Else Sena would have hit the same success rate of BJP. This is something disturbing and a rattled Sena thus has decided to pull the string. BJP falling short of majority becomes a boon for Sena to reinvent itself in state’s politics with an impact.
Taking benchmark of parliamentary election in May 2019, if 23 seats won by BJP can be extrapolated to 105 seats to BJP in assembly, then18 seats won by Sena at Lok Sabha should be extrapolated to much more seats to them in assembly. That did not happen. There is an internal haemorrhage in Sena’s support base and is flowing very fast to others. The emerging political scenario in Maharashtra is indicating a new mind set of the voters. Regional issues are becoming important with them. Apparently it shows that deep inside the state there is traction amongst the voters related to issues like agrarian crisis, draught, flood and unemployment. Sharad Power took the centre stage to voice these distresses but Sena being in previous government failed to do that. It is politically damaging for Sena that it has left out to voice those socio-economic issues of Maharashtra. Although it had no significant control on Fadnavis Government but it had to bear the brunt of the government’s lackadaisical attitude to handling these issues. So it becomes imperative to Sena to define itself in this emerging trend of regional issues.
While BJP lost maximum number of seats in its stronghold of Vidarbha region, Sena has lost maximum number of seats in its stronghold Western Maharashtra. Needless to say NCP of Pawar has gained the loss in both the regions. Sena may fear that it will further alienate itself from its core vote bank if it continues to play a junior partner role in the coalition where the lead partner heavily banks on national issues and charisma of its supreme leader. With waning effect of nationalistic appeal of BJP in the state, Sena will also lose its ethnic Maratha fragrance. An identity crisis looms large over Sena and it will be beyond repair after couple of years. It is against Sena’s nature to stage feeble protests against State Government to affirm its stand on contentious issues like Aarey Forest.
So the first two and half year in the tenure of the new assembly is most crucial to Sena to lead government to consolidate it political base, win over the floating voters and revive its organization strength deep inside Maharashtra. Traditionally BJP and Sena are vying for same Hindu Vote Bank for Maharashtra. But instead of consolidation of that vote bank, it is now falling apart into many fragments with changing socio-economic pattern of Maratha politics with advent of Dalit Vote Bank, Rural Vote Bank and Regional Distress Issues. Next couple of years needs to define Sena’s role as a political party dedicated to Maharashtra. The much discussed 50:50 formula is nothing but to redefine Sena again as a major political force in the state. In the quest to claim supremacy in state politics Sena is desperate to come out of the veil of a junior partner. Sena has thus realized that either it has to lead the government or become the leader of opposition. Sena will eventually opt any of the two options. Sena’s aspiration to become numero-uno in state politics may eventually force it to desert the coalition. (IPA Service)