Maharashtra, with 48 Lok Sabha seats, will be one of the key states for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance if it were to achieve the ambitious target of 400-paar set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had won 23 seats while the Shiv Sena, which was then a part of NDA, had bagged 18. The Congress could manage only 1 seat.
Ironically, Maharashtra will perhaps be the only state in 2024 Lok Sabha elections which will see two warring factions of same party on opposing sides of the political divide. Two regional heavyweights - Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar have seen their parties split down the middle.
First, it was the Shiv Sena that split into two dislodging Uddhav Thackeray from the chief minister's post. The BJP orchestrated a smart political move by making Eknath Shinde, who led the rebellion against Uddhav, chief minister of the NDA coalition. Former BJP chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who played a key role in wooing the rebel Sena group, settled for the post of deputy chief minister under the pressure of party leadership.
Eknath Shinde faction was eventually recognised as the real Shiv Sena, both by the Election Commission and the Maharashtra legislative assembly speaker.
Months later, Sharad Pawar faced a similar rebellion - which was led by his nephew Ajit Pawar. In a move that surprised the veteran Maharashtra politician, Ajit Pawar walked out of the party with most of the MLAs. He also joined the NDA coalition and was made the deputy chief minister. Now, his faction has been given the party name and symbol as Election Commission recognised it as the real NCP.
The twin blows to the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), which was formed after the Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress joined hands post 2019 assembly elections, leaves the opposition coalition a much weakened force in the state.
Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray today claimed that Maharashtra will decide the direction of the country and a "saffron storm will hit Delhi and uproot the dictatorship."
However, the truth remains that both Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar are in the process of rebuilding their parties while the leaders of their breakaway factions are in power. Without party name and symbol it will be a tough test for the two regional heavyweights, who once commanded great following in the state politics. Going into the elections, the BJP will be happy with the edge it has over the MVA in the state.