Is it the end of pre-election coalition era?

The 2014 Lok Sabha elections proved that the well-accepted belief that this is an era of coalition politics and the days of single party rule was over wrong.

But, BJP’s 282-seat haul in 2014 has made not just the UPA, but also the NDA allies nervous. The current developments in Maharashtra politics cannot thus be seen in isolation with the four major political parties in the state -- Congress, NCP, BJP and Shiv Sena – taking on each other in the assembly elections.  

It’s more than a coincidence that the 25-year relationship of Bhartiya Janta Party and Shiv Sena -- based on a common bond of Hindutva, will be over on September 25, the first day of Navratri, an auspicious day in Hindu culture.

Plainly speaking, seeds of this goodbye were sown soon after the Lok Sabha results, which saw BJP and Shiv Sena sweeping the state and claiming 42 seats, thanks to the overambitious leaders from both the parties. Even though the Shiv Sena got 18 seats, highest ever in the state’s history, BJP supporters claimed it was due to the Narendra Modi wave. They claimed even late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray could not ensure so many seats for his party during his heydays. This claim speaks volumes about the coalition. 

History says, BJP aligned with Shiv Sena soon after 1988 by-election to Vile Parle assembly seat. Sena won it solely on the basis of Hindutva. Later, the party stunned Congress as well as other political parties by winning Aurangabad Municipal Corporation single handedly, strengthening a belief in BJP that if it wanted to grow in the Maharashtra it would have to forge an alliance with the Sena. Accordingly, the party decided to accept the leadership of late Bal Thackeray, who was known as Hindurhidaysamrat (emperor of Hindu hearts) at the state level.  

Initially, it was an unwritten pact between the two parties that the BJP would take maximum share of the Lok Sabha seats and Sena would have an upper hand in state politics. But, after some period the Sena took away six Lok Sabha constituencies from BJP, increasing its quota of seats to 22 from 16 and bringing BJP down to 26 from 32. BJP swallowed it as a political compulsion and never objected. 

But, 2014 came as a double whammy for the BJP with Narendra Modi claiming credit for winning 282 seats for the party and helping NDA allies win 54 seats. The Sena was worried about the way Modi was becoming a Hindutva icon. And the results alerted the Sena leadership that the BJP was planning to dominate it, which could prove disastrous for the future of the party.  

Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray did his best to keep moral of his Shiv Sainiks high by taking on the BJP, even though his party’s Lok Sabha performance had a lot to do with the ‘Modi wave’. As part of this strategy, he expressed his desire to become the CM of the state, which unnerved the BJP. He then drafted a strategy to win maximum seats and set a goal for Mission-150. It was a shock for the BJP as after the landslide victory in Lok Sabha, the party was gearing itself up to take the state in its stride and install its own CM. At least half a dozen aspirants are in the queue currently. 

But the divorce, for some, may come as unexpected but it was imminent going by recent developments. 

His speech before the party office bearers on Sunday at Rang Sharda in Bandra proved a last straw on camel’s back. Besides coddling the BJP, he gave some bashing indirectly. And things became clear when BJP rejected his proposal. What happened later was just to avoid public reactions for taking a blame of breaking the alliance. The meetings were just formalities to avoid the blames. 

In the other camp, there was unanimity among senior Congress leaders for not having any truck with NCP, whom they consider the reason for the anti-incumbency wave. Surprisingly, NCP leader and Deputy CM Ajit Pawar too was in favour of fighting alone. Despite maintaining differences on many issues, CM Prithviraj Chavan and MPCC chief Manikrao Thakre were on one side to avoid alliance with NCP. The possibility of a break-up between BJP and Sena has also boosted their confidence to go solo. Reports of NCP’s plan to file rebels against Congress has resulted in the final decision. 

Now, it’s the demise of the pre-election coalition era. What happens post elections is worth watching, especially, since before that all the four parties will tear into each other in the pursuit of winning maximum seats. 

The writer is Political Editor of mid-day

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