Maharashtra will witness one of the most interesting Assembly polls in its history in the wake of splits in the rival alliances of BJP-Shiv Sena and Congress-NCP, paving way for a five-cornered contest.
The splits have electrified the atmosphere, ahead of the October 15 assembly polls, amid talk that it could see charges and counter-charges galore between the friends-turned-foes. The fifth player in the polls would be Raj Thackarey's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) which has lost its sheen following spectacular performance by the BJP-Shiv Sena in the recent Lok Sabha polls which along with their smaller allies had secured 42 of the 48 seats.
Voters will have a choice of picking from Shiv Sena, Congress, NCP, MNS and BJP candidates
BJP's pulling the plug of the alliance with Shiv Sena, its oldest ideological ally, came a day after trouble was evident in the tie-up with BJP chief Amit Shah calling off his visit to Maharashtra yesterday.
Until now, Shiv Sena was always the 'elder brother' in the saffron alliance with BJP playing a second fiddle to the aggressive leadership of the late Sena supremo Bal Thackarey in state politics while it was the BJP occupying the prime place in national politics.
Parting of ways between the two has happened at a time when BJP has ensured power at the Centre on its own under Narendra Modi's leadership and ending the coalition era at the Centre after 30 long years.
BJP was seeking a larger space in state politics in the changed situation which the Shiv Sena under Uddhav Thackarey refused to give and insisted that it continue to play the junior partner.
A belligerent Sena, desperate to protect its turf, raised the BJP's hackles by refusing to yield to the latter's demand for substantially large number of seats.
BJP's late leader Pramod Mahajan was the architect of the alliance which he had fashioned along with Bal Thackarey to meet the challenge posed by the then dominant Congress in the state politics.
Incidentally, Shiv Sena is the second largest constituent of the BJP led-NDA while NCP is the second largest in the Congress led UPA in the opposition.
In 1960 the Bombay state was divided into Maharashtra and Gujarat.
While the Congress under the dominant Marathas had kept its hold over the state's politics, the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance was essentially an OBC affair.
Late Gopinath Munde, OBC face of the BJP in Maharashtra, was the Deputy Chief Minister when the Shiv Sena-BJP gained
power in 1995, six years after the formation of the alliance. The saffron combine has been holding power in cash-rich Municipal Corporations like the BMC and TMC for the past two decades.
The Congress and the NCP were in alliance in the state for the past 15 years as they came together to share power, months after NCP chief Sharad Pawar parted ways on the issue of Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin.