CM Devendra Fadnavis-led ruling alliance, that also includes BJP's traditional ally Shiv Sena, is hoping to retain power in the Vidhan Sabha amid challenge from the Congress-NCP
The state of Maharashtra is heading for polls to elect a fresh Legislative Assembly. Elections will be held for 288 of the state legislature’s 289 seats. One seat belongs to a nominated member.
In terms of strength, Maharashtra’s Legislative Assembly is the third largest, after Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The tenure of the sitting Assembly is scheduled to end on November 9.
Voters in Maharashtra will head for polling in a single phase on October 21. On the same day, voters in Haryana will also cast their ballots. Counting of votes will happen on October 24.
There are a total of over 8.9 crore eligible voters in the state. The Election Commission (EC) is setting up 95,473 polling stations in Maharashtra.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is hoping to retain power in the heavily-industrialised state, along with its traditional ally – the Shiv Sena.
This National Democratic Alliance (NDA), locally known as ‘Maha-Yuti’, is being challenged by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) that mainly comprises the Congress and Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). The Congress-NCP alliance is locally known as ‘Maha-Aghadi’. Congress is being led by its Interim President Sonia Gandhi. Both alliances include other smaller partners.
Lowdown on the political situation
Traditionally, Shiv Sena has played a ‘big brother’ in the alliance at the state level. However, this changed in 2014. Riding on the ‘Narendra Modi wave’, BJP had contested the state polls separately and won a lion’s share of the seats. However, having fallen short of the majority mark, they formed the government with Sena’s support in a post-poll arrangement.
Fighting separately, BJP won 122 seats. Shiv Sena bagged 63 seats. Congress and NCP, who had also fought separately, won 42 and 41 seats, respectively. Vasai-Virar region-based Bahujan Vikas Aaghadi (BVA) and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) won three and two seats, respectively.
After displaying a quick rise in 2009, Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) fell to just one.
In the last five years, Fadnavis has tightened his grip over the state and its politics. A year before the 2019 general election, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had declared that his party would not contest alongside the BJP, citing numerous grievances.
However, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, they reached a seat-sharing agreement under which BJP would take a lead at the Centre and the Sena would get equal seats during the Vidhan Sabha polls. However, Shiv Sena has now settled for significantly lesser number of seats.
Of the 288 seats, the BJP is contesting 164 and the Shiv Sena 124. Addressing the annual Dussehra rally at Mumbai’s iconic Shivaji Park on October 8, Uddhav Thackeray said, “The Shiv Sena does not bow before anyone except Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and the Marathi-speaking people.”
"We did make some compromises for the alliance to happen, but they were in the interest of Maharashtra. I apologise to Shiv Sainiks whose seats have gone to the allies,” Thackeray said.
Union Minister Ramdas Athawale’s Republican Party of India (Athawale) (RPI-A) is also part of the saffron alliance.
On the other hand, Congress and the NCP managed to put together a seat-sharing formula with relative ease. While initially Congress and NCP were going to contest equal number of seats, the ‘Grand Old Party’ will now be contesting a few seats more than the NCP. Both sides will give some seats to smaller allies, including the Samajwadi Party (SP), from their quota.
Historically, a third front has not been seen as a contender in Maharashtra. Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) and Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) will be contesting separately. They had allied during the general election.
First after the Lok Sabha polls
This is the first set of major polls in the country after the 2019 Lok Sabha election, which was swept by the saffron alliance.
In the general election, BJP and Shiv Sena had won 23 and 18 seats, respectively, in Maharashtra. Congress and NCP won one and four seats, respectively. Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM managed to win Aurangabad while Congress-supported Independent candidate Navnit Ravi Rana won the Amravati seat. Maharashtra has a total of 48 parliamentary constituencies.
The NDA increased its vote share at the expense of the UPA.
Key things to watch out for
‘Son rise at Shiv Sena’: Yuva Sena chief and Uddhav Thackeray’s son Aaditya Thackeray has taken the political plunge. Aaditya is contesting from the Worli Assembly constituency. This makes him the first member of the Thackeray family to participate in electoral politics. With the key opposition leader defecting to the Sena ahead of the polls, political observers suggest that the contest may not be tough for the 29-year-old.
Exodus: A number of opposition leaders have defected from the Congress and NCP to BJP and Shiv Sena. This has happened through the ranks and includes very senior leaders like Member of Parliament (MP) Udayanraje Bhosale. While those joining the saffron alliance has boosted the ruling side’s chances in many seats, it has also upset the cadre in many areas.
Defections are expected to impact the election outcome in many constituencies, especially in the Marathwada region. The region is considered NCP’s bastion.
Faltering Opposition unity: Similar to the Lok Sabha polls, the opposition continues to be divided. Talks for an alliance between Congress-NCP and the Ambedkar-led VBA broke down. In fact, the VBA-AIMIM tie-up also did not survive.
After the Lok Sabha election, Moneycontrol had analysed how a more united opposition could have slowed NDA’s juggernaut. Assuming consolidation of anti-NDA votes, the outcome of at least seven Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra would have been different had the UPA allied with Ambedkar’s VBA.
In seven constituencies -- Buldhana, Gadchiroli-Chimur, Hatkanangle, Nanded, Parbhani, Sangli and Solapur -- the combined tally of the UPA and the VBA would have been greater than that of the NDA candidates.
State of the economy, floods and farm crisis: The election comes at a time when the country is witnessing a slowdown in the economy, with the April to June quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth plummeting to a seven-year-low of 5 percent.
The slump was for the fifth straight quarter as consumer demand and private investment decelerated vis-à-vis the global environment.
To make matters worse, the unemployment data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) in May confirmed the pre-Lok Sabha election leaked report’s claim of joblessness in 2017-18 being at a 45-year-high of 6.1 percent.
Agriculture contributes about 12 percent to Maharashtra’s growth. Fadnavis has faced flak from the farmer community over crop insurance in the wake of rise in prices of vegetables, particularly onions after an erratic monsoon.
To counter this, the chief minister is endorsing his farm-loan waiver, which was announced in June 2017, and various schemes for water conservation and irrigation. Earlier this year, he had announced that his government had disbursed Rs 24,000 crore under the loan waiver to 4.3 million farmers, with another Rs 8,000 crore yet to be spent.
The Maharashtra government’s response to the floods that devastated parts of the state this Monsoon will also be under voter scrutiny.
First after Article 370 abrogation: The ruling alliance has been talking about the abrogation of Article 370 that granted special provisions to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The removal of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution has found mention in BJP’s election manifesto since 1980. Hence, the move is only an assertion of their agenda and underscores BJP’s ideology of nationalism.
An ABP News-C Voter opinion poll carried out before the model code of conduct kicked in, predicts that the BJP-Sena alliance is likely to sweep the election. According to the poll, the two parties could win over 200 out of the 288 seats. NDA could win around 205 seats. UPA and others could win 55 and 28 seats, respectively.
However, it must be noted that the poll was conducted before the seat-sharing pact was formalised.
In terms of the vote share, the survey predicts that the alliance would get 46 percent of the vote share while the UPA would get 30 percent votes.Assembly Elections 2019: For the latest news, views and updates, click hereGet access to India's fastest growing financial subscriptions service Moneycontrol Pro for as little as Rs 599 for first year. Use the code "GETPRO". Moneycontrol Pro offers you all the information you need for wealth creation including actionable investment ideas, independent research and insights & analysis For more information, check out the Moneycontrol website or mobile app.