How times change.
Anyone remember this?
But then, we have all learned never to take the Shiv Sena too seriously. Before the BMC elections of 2017, BJP released a series of video ads featuring a cartoon tiger and cub (but not naming any specific party). The cartoon tiger and cub are walking down a long hallway with a series of framed pictures showing fierce tigers. Both daddy tiger and cub tiger beam with pride as they imagine themselves as kings of the jungle. At the end of the hallway, however, is a mirror. When the two look in the mirror, there’s just two cats staring back at them. Reality vs imagination.
Even now the Sena tries to needle the BJP here and there. Their decision to support a senseless campaign to “save” Aarey Forest from Mumbai Metro is only the most recent example. No, they aren’t cutting down the freaking forest, just a little patch of it so that they can build a metro that will help commuters move from polluting two & three wheelers to the most environment friendly mode of transport : the electric powered metro.
But the Sena has now had over five years to digest the Modi wave and make their peace with the new realities.
If I remember correctly, before the 2019 election, the BJP-Sena decided to go 50:50 for Assembly polls. Of course, this simply does not make sense.
All sorts of numbers are floating around now. Some say BJP has offered 106 seats to the Sena, some say Sena is willing to settle for 135 seats (less than half of the 289 member Assembly). The caveat is that BJP must accommodate the micro allies from its own share (the BJP has a lot of micro allies in Maharashtra whose names you may not have heard: I could remember just one, the Shiv Sangram Party, but there are many others). Keep in mind that these numbers are all speculation by media which may not know anything about the actual negotiations. Or these numbers may even have been floated deliberately by one side or another to test waters.
As for the CM post, I am sure that Sena has already given up on it. Devendra Fadnavis has been an exemplary CM for Maharashtra, ending some of the most endemic agricultural crises in the state. There is no doubt that he will continue as CM. I had said it a long time ago: that man is going a very very long way.
In case you were wondering what the old seat sharing between BJP & Sena used to be, here it is : 172 for Sena and 117 for the BJP. This was the distribution in every election since the times of Balasaheb until it was snapped in 2014. The alliance, or “Yuti” as it is called in Maharashtra, was formed in 1989.
My guess is that a realistic BJP would still want the Sena by its side. The BJP probably could win Maharashtra single-handedly if it tried, but only just. Dumping the Sena altogether would look bad to the electorate. And it would raise the specter of a giant Congress+NCP+Sena alliance. Yes, all three parties are in terrible shape, but never forget Bihar and the might of a combined opposition.
At the moment, it looks like the BJP will be out of power for full five years in both Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh (Congress recently added 6 BSP MLAs to its kitty in Rajasthan, now fully stabilizing its government). I don’t think the BJP would like to risk Maharashtra.
As such, the BJP’s baseline number for seat distribution would probably be 172-117, an exact reversal of the old Sena-BJP distribution from the Vajpayee years. But, knowing how Motabhai thinks, he would likely ask Sena to settle for 100.
My guess is that as Aditya’s star rises in his fully dynastic party, the Sena will get more and more sensible. Aditya is young. He likely has no memory of the 1995-99 rule, no memory of Sena talking down to BJP as it used to, no memory of Sena being anywhere close to power except as junior partner to BJP. He would settle for a cozy life as a respectable junior partner of BJP much more easily than Uddhav ever could.
It’s BJP all over the place in Maharashtra. NCP & Congress are almost over. Sena has few options.
Believe it or not, the most interesting entity in Maharashtra right now is Prakash Ambedkar and his Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA). They came from nowhere and put up a pretty decent show in Lok Sabha polls, adjusting for being such a small party that too in a big picture Lok Sabha election and standing against the Modi wave.
Getting ever closer to MIM, the VBA is trying to put together the alliance that every liberal has always dreamed of : the minority + Dalit alliance. The formula has never worked on the ground so far. The reasons are simple enough to understand : on the ground it is mostly the Dalit who faces the maximum brunt of the aggression from the ‘peaceful’ minority.
But the VBA has reasons to be upbeat. The mood in Congress/NCP camp can only be described as one of total doom and gloom. Literally every leader is looking to escape the sinking (sunken) ship. This might leave a significant chunk of voters in quandary. Not wanting to vote BJP/Sena, they might just go to VBA. They know BJP/Sena is winning anyway and their vote will be for a losing cause. So when they are losing anyway, why not go with the opposition that is at least trying to win? Because Cong/NCP certainly isn’t. Even Pawar Sahib appears to be sleepwalking in the election : his comments on Pakistan the other day were only the latest of his blunders.
So, if you want some excitement in the very predictable Maharashtra election, keep your eyes on VBA. There’s no question of them winning a lot of seats. But in vote share, you may be in for an (unpleasant) surprise.