Mumbai: The Shiv Sena’s decision to go solo in the 2019 elections stems from its desire to regain the lost ground and the move is expected to stir the coalition cauldron in Maharashtra, according to political observers.
The Uddhav Thackeray-led party also thinks that public support for its ally BJP is waning in the country and it can capitalise on the “failures” of the Devendra Fadnavis government by going to the polls alone, they said.
The decision, which will split saffron votes, also opens up possibilities for the opposition Congress and the NCP to mount a stiff challenge to the BJP, the observers said.
The Sena, in its National Executive, meet held last week, passed a resolution to fight the 2019 Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly polls on its own. Currently, the Sena is a junior ally in the Fadnavis government.
The regional outfit, which shares a blow hot blow cold relations with the BJP, also announced that it would contest Assembly elections across the country.
Sudheendra Kulkarni, Chairman of the Observer Research Foundation, a city-based think-tank, said the state’s politics is going to be much more “unstable, uncertain and unprincipled” in the future.
“The Shiv Sena has come to the conclusion that the popular support for its partner BJP is waning in Maharashtra and also across the nation,” Kulkarni told PTI.
“Secondly, the Sena is not used to playing a junior partner in the alliance. Which is why it probably decided to fight the next (state) Assembly and Lok Sabha elections on its own,” he added.
He said the split between the long-standing saffron allies will further fracture Maharashtra’s politics.
“The state has suffered badly because of the four-way split in its polity – represented by the Congress, the NCP, the Sena and the BJP. Even the two rival alliances (Sena-BJP & Congress-NCP) have never been cohesive.
“No single party is likely to form a government (in Maharashtra) in the near future,” said Kulkarni.
Political analyst Prakash Bal Joshi, however, said Sena’s move stems from a sense of insecurity over the growing influence of the BJP and its own diminishing mass support.
“Their relations changed as soon as the BJP, riding on the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, won more Assembly seats (in Maharashtra) in the last polls. The Sena is also upset that its demands are not being met,” he said.
The senior analyst said it remains to be seen if the Congress and the NCP seize the opportunity and take advantage of the split in saffron votes.
“If the Modi magic continues in 2019, it will benefit the BJP. If not, it will benefit the Congress and the NCP more than the Sena,” Joshi said.
Sanjay V Ranade, Head, Department of Communication and Journalism, University of Mumbai, said any political alliance must have some fundamentals – ideology, electoral goals and compatibility – to succeed.
Both the BJP and the Sena are playing pragmatic politics, he said.
“The two main players who stitched this (alliance) were Bal Thackeray (Sena) and Pramod Mahajan (BJP), and they are no more now.
“It is necessary for both to test their alliance again. I don t think there is a risk. I think both will assess their strengths and weaknesses and take it from there. It’s just pragmatic politics,” he said.
He said after the split, the Sena will have to present a fresh agenda to take on three competitors – the BJP, the MNS and the NCP.
“The BJP will have to tread carefully because it has a lot to lose. It is confronted with a lot of ifs and buts and the alliance break-up has added to it. It has no face in Maharashtra and then will have to borrow the PM’s face to try and register a win,” Ranade said.
Veteran journalist Kiran Tare said the Sena thinks there is a strong resentment against the BJP.
“(Sena chief) Uddhav Thackeray does not want to carry the government’s failure on farmer loan waiver and maintaining social harmony on his shoulders,” Tare said.
“He (Thackeray) thinks the anti-BJP and anti-Congress forces could rally behind the Sena. At the same time, he has realised the BJP will not take him onboard while planning its poll strategy. So he had to make his plans clear,” he adds.
Tare said by opening its cards so early, the Sena has given the BJP enough time to plan its strategy to minimise the impact of the break-up.
“The Congress and the NCP may come together. But it will not help the Shiv Sena. Uddhav Thackeray has given much more time to the BJP to go for poll preparations.
“Thackeray will find it difficult to generate finance to contest all the 288 Assembly and 48 Lok Sabha seats (in Maharashtra). My guess is the Sena will not cross double-digit figure in the Lok Sabha and 40-seat mark in the Assembly if it goes solo,” Tare said.
He said the opposition may get a boost only if there is a bigger anti-BJP alliance consisting of the Congress, the NCP and the Sena.