Sena roars in NDA win, ‘Pawar play’ eats into saffron votes

Maharashtra Assembly elections, Maharashtra Assembly Polls, Sharad Pawar
Shiv Sena leader Aditya Thackeray arrives at Sena Bhavan in Mumbai | PTI Photo

Maharashtra on Thursday (October 24) looked set to have a BJP-Shiv Sena alliance government for another five years. The win, however, wasn’t something the saffron combine would be very happy about, in closed doors.

As per the latest results/trends, the BJP’s tally in the 288-member Assembly was 105, including 96 seats where results were declared. The Sena’s tally was 56, including 55 results, the NCP’s was 54, including 49 results, while the Congress was 44, including 35 results. (Based on results declared for of 261 seats till 9.20 pm).

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In the 2014 polls, the BJP had won 122 seats, Sena 63, Congress 42 and NCP 41. The BJP and Sena had then contested separately. The Sena joined the BJP-led government over a month after it was formed.

However, former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan called the result an “interesting possibility” of the Sena, NCP and Congress aligning to upset the BJPs applecart. But Chavan stopped short of indicating if the Congress and NCP will align with the Sena – which he termed as the lesser evil (compared to BJP) – to form the next government in Maharashtra.

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In terms of the increase in number of seats compared to the 2014 polls, the Sharad Pawar-led NCP emerged as the largest gainer, while the BJP’s tally took a considerable dip. This, however, did not dampen the enthusiasm of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who announced that the BJP-Sena combine will rule the state for another term.

Sena gets its swagger back

Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, looking elated after the triumphant maiden electoral foray of his son Aaditya. However, the issue of who will become the chief minister is an open question. Asked by reporters which party will get the chief ministers post, Thackeray said, “It is time to remind the BJP about the formula arrived at when BJP chief Amit Shah visited my home… We had decided on a fifty-fifty formula for the alliance. We agreed to contest fewer seats (than the BJP), but I cannot accommodate the BJP every time. I should allow my party to grow,” Thackeray said.

Fadnavis happy with strike rate

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said despite the BJP ending up winning fewer seats in 2019 compared to the 2014 Assembly polls, its “strike rate” is better this time. He thanked the people of Maharashtra for giving a clear and decisive mandate to the BJP-led Mahayuti (grand alliance), adding his party and the Sena will go by what was pre-decided between them on sharing of power.

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Fadnavis said the BJP contested 260 seats in 2014 and won 122. “This time, we contested 150 seats and our allies 14 and as per trends, we are likely to win 105 seats. Our strike rate was 47% in 2014, now it is 70%,” he said. He added that the BJP secured 28% votes in 2014 and polled around 26% votes across 164 seats this time.

Giant killers and losers

NCP’s Shriniwas Patil, ex-bureaucrat and former governor of Sikkim, became a giant killer after he trounced Udayanraje Bhosale in the Satara Lok Sabha bypoll, which was also held on October 21 along with the state Assembly polls. Bhosale had quit the NCP and joined the BJP ahead of the bypoll. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had addressed a poll campaign rally at Satara.

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Prominent winners in the Assembly elections include chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray, and Leader of Opposition in Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde who trounced estranged cousin and BJP minister Pankaja Munde in a keenly-contested poll battle. Five other ministers in the Fadnavis-led government were also trailing as per trends available so far.

Former chief ministers Ashok Chavan and Prithviraj Chavan and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar were other prominent winners.

Turncoats bite the dust

Among the turncoats, 11 of those who joined Shiv Sena and eight who joined the BJP on the eve of the elections, were defeated. Reacting to the trends and results, NCP chief Sharad Pawar said the message was that people did not like the arrogance of power.

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The people, however, have asked his party to remain in Opposition, Pawar said, adding that it will not try to form the next government in Maharashtra. “People have not accepted the talk of 220 seats (out of 288). The NCP accepts peoples mandate humbly… The election result shows people did not like the arrogance of power,” Pawar said.

It’s a 50:50 pact, reminds Raut

Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said his party and the BJP will form the next government in Maharashtra, and stressed the two parties will stick to the pre-decided “50:50” sharing formula.

Raut ruled out possibility of the Shiv Sena joining hands with the opposition parties to form the new government. Asked about the possibility of the Shiv Sena embracing the NCP and Congress to form government, Raut said, “No, we fought the polls in alliance with the BJP. We will go ahead with the tie-up.”

(With inputs from agencies)