Indian politics is more ideological than many believe, but most parties have proven to be masters of practical politics in their quest for power. Many alliances have been forged as quickly as they have fallen apart. In the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections and Maharashtra assembly polls, the combined vote share of the undivided Shiv Sena and BJP was more than 45 per cent, giving them a clear edge over Congress and its allies. However, after the 2019 assembly elections, the alliance of Congress, NCP, and Shiv Sena tilted the reckoning towards MVA, achieving an almost 50 per cent vote share.
The BJP has already announced that it aims to gain more than 41 seats in Maharashtra. But it will have to convince both Shinde’s Sena as well as Ajit’s NCP to give it a major share of seats for contesting the general elections. The task will be cut out, as BJP leaders in the past stoked a controversy when they declared that it would give Sena a share only in the assembly seats. BJP poached other political party leaders to form a government in Maharashtra to take revenge against the sabotage of Uddhav Shiv Sena, and on the other hand, in 2019, Shiv Sena also switched sides and formed a government with Congress and NCP by sabotaging BJP. In the past year, the political landscape in Maharashtra has experienced enormous uncertainty. The seat-sharing formula will be really challenging for both alliances in the coming time.
INDIA is having its first nationwide meeting in Maharashtra, and a state-wise seat-sharing formula could be discussed during the meeting. A logo for the alliance would also be unveiled on August 31. A senior leader from the Opposition said, “The logo will reflect the country and its unity, and those things that unify the country,” adding that a few more political parties may also join the meeting. The NDA and the INDIA bloc are projected to get 43 per cent and 41 per cent of the vote share, respectively, a recent survey found.
Meanwhile, tomorrow, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, and Mallikarjun Kharge will be attending the meeting. The unveiling of the INDIA alliance logo, formation of the coordination committee, the appointment of convenors, a discussion on the possible seat-sharing formula between the INDIA constituents for the general elections, strategies for the general elections, and several others are on the agenda of the Opposition INDIA alliance. The Shiv Sena (UBT) also released the first video teaser of the Opposition INDIA alliance meeting in Mumbai.
Matching the dates of the Opposition INDIA bloc’s third meeting in Mumbai, the ruling grand alliance of the BJP, Shiv Sena, and Ajit Pawar group in the state will be holding a meeting at Worli in south Mumbai to discuss Lok Sabha polls. After the 2022 Maharashtra political crisis, Eknath Shinde, along with 40 MLAs, formed a government with the BJP. Eknath Shinde became the new chief minister. After the 2023 Maharashtra political crisis, the Ajit Pawar faction of the Nationalist Congress Party also joined the government.
The BJP-Shiv Sena-led alliance government in Maharashtra has gained strength after the entry of the Ajit Pawar-led NCP faction, but it is likely that the seat-sharing exercise for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls will be much more difficult for the BJP, which aims to contest most of the 48 seats in the state. Eknath Shinde’s rebellion in June last year led to the downfall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, which comprised the Shiv Sena, Congress, and the NCP. Apart from this, Sharad Pawar’s nephew Ajit joined hands with the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis government, triggering a split in the NCP.
Presently, the BJP and its alliance partners—Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena and Ajit Pawar’s NCP–are short of the 41 seats that the BJP had won in alliance with the Shiv Sena in 2019. As per the survey, the NDA is projected to get a 40 per cent vote share with 20 seats, while the INDIA bloc is expected to get a 45 per cent vote share with 28 seats. The MVA alliance parties are part of the INDIA bloc.
Considering the aggressive approach of Ajit, convincing the NCP faction led by him to settle for something less than what is due will be tough. Both Shinde and Ajit do not have a fallback option if BJP forces its demand for the maximum share of the 48 seats. The BJP has always dominated regional parties. It will not be so easy for the Shiv Sena and Ajit Pawar to strike a hard bargain as their fallback options are limited now. The BJP will press for all 25 seats it contested in 2019 and will tell the Shinde and Pawar factions to divide amongst themselves the remaining seats. Notably, the survey shows that if Lok Sabha elections were to happen today, the BJP would secure only 15 seats, which is 9 fewer than its previous tally.
“Yet, the biggest problem the BJP will face is to keep both Shinde and Pawar happy in the seat sharing for the Lok Sabha polls. The BJP will promise its partners that they will be compensated in the assembly elections. And this seat sharing will depend on the outcome of the Lok Sabha results. In contrast, Congress could improve its seat count to 10, a substantial increase from its single seat in 2019. Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar would contribute 18 seats to the INDIA bloc tally. The numbers favor MVA since 2019.