Delayed announcement of election schedule catches parties off guard

The announcement leaves parties with just over a month to decide on their final election and seat-sharing strategies

The battle lines have been drawn, with the announcement of the schedule for the state assembly elections on Friday. The Congress-NCP alliance, ruling for the past 15 years, seems shaky since BJP’s sweeping victory during the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year. Meanwhile, the BJP and Shiv Sena-led Mahayuti is gearing up to rock the alliance’s boat further.

There has been a flurry of activity in political circles since the announcement of the schedule for the state assembly polls
There has been a flurry of activity in political circles since the announcement of the schedule for the state assembly polls. Pic/ PTI 

In the midst of these developments, the delayed announcement of the election schedule has sent the parties into a tizzy, as they are left with barely any time to decide on their election strategies. With just 33 days left to finalise the details, neither the Congress-NCP alliance, nor the Mahayuti alliance of six parties have announced their plans for seat-sharing.

A late night meeting between senior leaders of BJP and Shiv Sena went on past midnight at Matoshree, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s home. However, leaders of both parties refused to divulge details of their discussion.

On the other hand, there has been no word on seat-sharing between the Congress and NCP, say leaders of both parties. There is a state of chaos, as Congress is yet to respond to Sharad Pawar-led NCP’s demand for 144 seats — half of the total strength of the state assembly.

According to a senior NCP leader, not even a phone call has exchanged between the parties since the official demand was made.

Congress-NCP to split?
Both parties have completed the screening process and interviews of ticket aspirants for the 288 seats separately. The parties have launched separate poll campaigns, which is entirely contradictory to their joint approach to earlier polls in 2004 and 2009.

Leaders jumping ship
Several leaders have also deserted the NCP, making things difficult for the party. A group of legislators from western Maharashtra is likely to jump ship to BJP on Saturday in Sangli, in the presence of Union Minister Nitin Gadkari.

Mahayuti formula
On the BJP-Shiv Sena front, both parties have wrapped up the seat-sharing formula for the four smaller parties — MP Ramdas Athawale-led Republican Party of India (Athawale), MP Raju Shetti-led Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, Mahadeo Jankar-led Rashtriya Samaj Paksha and MLC Vinayak Mete-led Shiv Sangram. BJP and Sena are believed to have decided to allocate 18 seats to them, while fighting for maximum seats from the remaining 170, of which BJP has demanded 135 seats.

Unexpected Support for MNS
In an interesting development, Congress and NCP sprung a surprise in the state political circles when they decided to back the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) candidate for the mayoral election in Nasik on Friday. With the unexpected support, the Raj Thackeray-led party installed its candidate, Ashok Murtadak, as the city mayor. Until a few days ago, the MNS had an alliance with the BJP. Congress and NCP’s support to MNS is crucial with the advent of the elections, as it was due to the MNS’s presence that the Congress-led Democratic Front could retain power in 2009. At a time when the Congress-NCP alliance is struggling, Friday’s support seems like a clear attempt to strengthen MNS, in order to dent the BJP and Sena’s vote bank.

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