This Assembly election in Maharashtra is going to be a multi-cornered fight, say political pundits. The breakup of four major parties—the Shiv Sena-BJP and the Congress-NCP—is bound to have significant ramifications at the state and national levels The strong verbal spats between Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar of the NCP and Prithviraj Chavan of the Congress foretold the impending split of the parties. But the break-up of the 25-year-old alliance between the two Hindutva parties—the Shiv Sena and the BJP—has come as a surprise for many. Apart from the seat-sharing conflict and fight for the Chief Minister’s post, the most convincing reason for the BJP-Shiv Sena split was the fact that Uddhav Thackeray didn’t play his cards well this time. The by-poll results were a shock to the BJP when it lost its ground both in UP and Rajasthan. In Gujarat, the ruling BJP could only get 6 out of 9 seats while the Congress won three. Wanting to exploit this situation, the Shiv Sena said that Modi wave did not pay-off for the BJP in the by-poll elections and it did not want to play junior partner to the BJP in the Maharashtra State Assembly elections. The crux of the tussle between the BJP and the Shiv Sena was BJP suggestion that the two parties should contest on 135 seats each in the Assembly elections in Maharashtra, leaving 18 seats for smaller allies. The Sena disagreed to this suggestion as it wanted to contest not less than 155 of the 288 seats. On the other hand, in the Congress NCP alliance the fight over seat-sharing almost every time resulted in a 10-seat deficit. On most occasions, it was the Congress, which suffered due to this deficit. That was the reason why most Congressmen wanted to end the alliance with NCP.
Sanjay Raut, editor of the Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamna, kicked up a controversy by questioning the loyalty of the Gujaratis to Maharashtra. This set the backdrop for the split between the Gujarati ruling at the Centre and the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. With Modi giving only one ministry at the Centre to Shiv Sena, the rift further widened. Political analysts feel it is the Shiv Sena which needs Modi more and not the other way round. Modi being one-man Army, he can easily sweep the assembly elections in Maharashtra. Even if the Shiv Sena comes to power it will have to depend on the Centre, which means on Modi for funds.
“There Is No Room For Nepotism In Our Party”
In the present scenario, BJP’s relations with its alliance partners have gone for a toss. What will be the outcome and what will be the party’s future course of action, BJP’s national vice-president Prabhat Jha, explains to Deepak Kumar Rath, all these issues. Excerpts:
First the BJP left Kuldeep Bishnoi in Haryana and then Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. Keeping coalition politics in mind, what message Bharatiya Janta Party want to give to the nation?
We know how to maintain coalition dharma and Atalji was an excellent example for it. Despite being in majority, we have formed government with our alliance partners. We have to get out from the political bargaining. For the last 25 years, in every election Shiv Sena fought on 169 seats and we fought on just 119 seats. Don’t you think that on those 169 seats BJP workers would not be there? How much they must have gone through? So if we want to expand our work, we need to move ahead. We didn’t break our relationship with Shiv Sena. Shiv Sena’s Bal Thackeray was known as Balasaheb because he kept himself at bay from power. He never wished to become the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Here is the basic difference. The greed to become chief minister paved the way for the coalition to break. Shiva Sena was strong there because Sena Pramukh has kept himself out of politics. On the other hand in Haryana, there is no existence of Haryana Janhit Congress. They haven’t gotten a single seat in the state and still they are asking of 48 seats. I think that people should understand the coalition dharma like we do.
But in the past, in Maharashtra, the chief minister of the coalition was from Shiv Sena?
At that time, we had decided that the party who will get more seats will get the chief ministerial seat. Last time, we got more seats and then the late Gopinath Munde became the Leader of Opposition. Balasaheb Thackeray never broke the alliance. Uddhav Thackeray is not more famous than Balasaheb. He does not have a more mass appeal than him. After Balasaheb, there is a lack of political understanding in the Shiv Sena.
So is there a political leader in your party who is as famous as Uddhav Thackeray?
We don’t win seats due to a popularity of a leader; it is the workers who make that happen. If there would be no party workers, then do you think the popularity of Modiji would have come handy? Narendra Modi is popular and we have a strong base of party workers. We didn’t select a leader in Maharashtra, because we were in coalition and in coalition a leader is not selected.
So who is the face of BJP in Maharashtra now?
Definitely there will be a leader after the election. The Bhartiya Janta Party is more popular than Shiv Sena in the state. Modiji will soon go there and we will witness a great victory.
Shiv Sena hasn’t taken its support back from the coalition at centre. Will this indicate that there would a post-poll alliance with Shiv Sena?
The alliance should not have been broken at the first place. The breakup with Shiv Sena is very painful for everyone. But in our country, democracy cannot flourish, if there is nepotism. What would happen to those Shiv Sena workers who day and night work for the party but they can’t become head of the party. You can see what they did to Manhor Joshiji. Why did Chagan Bhujbal go? Why did Rane leave? This needs a thought. I think that they should have understood the coalition dharma more than we do.
If you are talking about dynasty politics, then the BJP is also following it?
No, it is not in our party’s norm. When Pankaj Singh didn’t get the ticket, nobody expressed their discontent. Nobody was angry when Anurag Thakur wasn’t selected for any ministry. Modiji and the party, both are giving a clear message that there is no room for nepotism in our party.
If we talk about Haryana, then we can see no leader in the BJP, who can give a tough fight to CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda?
Without a popular leader, we won 7 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
So, the victory was due to Narendra Modi?
We will once again win with Modiji name. The party will keep finger on one person and he will become a leader. Modji was the ‘Sangathan Mantri’ and ‘Pracharak’ of the party. At that time nobody knew, that he will become India’s Prime Minister. The day party selected him as the election campaigning in-charge; he became the Prime Minister of India. So it is the party, who will take the decision.
It means, whoever Narendra Modi chooses, will become the leader of that state?
Both the party and Mr Modi will decide. He is our leader, so he can also decide.
In his every rally, Hooda is asking, who is the leader of your party in the state. What answers do you have?
Who is the outgoing chief minister of Congress, Hooda! Who will be denied by the people of the state, Hooda! That’s why, without analysing the present scenario in the state, one cannot make a decision to select the candidate for the chief minister. Our priority is to come in power in Haryana, not disclosing the candidate name for chief minister.
What will be your agenda in Haryana?
Hooda has destroyed the state during his 10-year rule. He engulfed the land of the farmers. He hasn’t done much work in the state. Budgetary allocations are on papers only; no work has been done in reality. The land acquired for Rajiv Gandhi University has been given at 2 rupee price. Is this the way a government functions? There are not one but many things, which we can highlight.
It’s been more than four months, since you came in power. During elections you promised that you will prosecute Robert Vadra once you come into power?
Rajasthan government is investigating this thing. The Rajasthan government has appointed four people committee to look into this matter and they have also submitted the report.
What will be your agenda in Maharashtra?
In both the states, the condition is same. In one state, the government is there for 10 years and in another it is for 15 years. Prithviraj Chavan is not a ground leader. He came in air-condition, he remained in air-condition and will go from air-condition only. So the BJP is aggressively moving forward to make its government in Maharashtra.
If needed then will BJP take support of the NCP?
These policy decisions are not known to us. That’s up to the party to decide. I know only one thing that the party will score maximum seats in the state.
The BJP has always said that whenever it will come in power it will raise its core issues. What is your take on this?
It’s a simple logic, till the time we don’t get two-third majority in Rajya Sabha, we cannot do much. Is the women reservation bill, passed by Rajya Sabha, is getting passed in Lok Sabha? So, the issues which are linked by our ideology can only be implemented after we get two-third majority in Rajya Sabha.
(Translated by Rohan Pal)
After the death of Bal Thackeray, popularity of the Shiv Sena has declined considerably in Maharashtra. With the BJP, apart from Modi, who is at the Centre, there are no visible strong leaders in the state. There is no one in the BJP to replace Gopinath Munde and Pramod Mahajan. The Congress is facing a strong anti-incumbency factor. The 2G scam, the Commonwealth Games scam and the Adarsh Society scam, all have dented the image of Congress. Narendra Modi, during his election campaign, has promised the slum- dwellers of Mumbai their own homes, water and power supply by 2022. The international airport in Navi Mumbai, the trans-harbour link and the Metro are all in the BJP manifesto for the Assembly elections. But Narendra Modi wanting to split Vidarbha has not gone down well with the Shiv Sena and many in Maharashtra. Uddhav Thackeray has compared BJP’s poll campaign in Maharashtra with Afzal Khan’s invasion. He says that the BJP intends to divide the state into pieces.
With the NCP and Congress, Shiv Sena and BJP divide and the last moment emergence of the MNS—the fight for the Assembly seats appears to be a khichdi. According to an opinion poll, the BJP is predicted to be the single-largest party if it contests alone. The BJP, even if it contests alone, may win around 112 seats, Shiv Sena 62, NCP 38 and Congress 45. Since there seems to be a lot of uncertainty hovering around, it is still difficult to predict the winner with the largest majority. But one thing is clear that this Assembly election in Maharashtra will prove whether Modi wave has surged or ebbed.
By Indira Satyanarayan from Mumbai