Maharashtra: Tensions brewing in alliances over seat-sharing for assembly polls

June 15,2024

PC Alexander, late governor of Maharashtra and author, in his book "Perils of Democracy," had remarked that political alliances don't last long. Over a period of time, differences crop up among the coalition partners and they fall apart. This observation is particularly relevant to the current political climate in Maharashtra, where tensions are high within both the ruling and opposition alliances over the seat-sharing process for the upcoming assembly elections.

Recent developments following the Lok Sabha polls have sparked acrimony within the incumbent Mahayuti alliance. Eknath Shinde's Shiv Sena, which contested 16 seats and won seven, was offered only a Minister of State (MoS) position in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet. This has led to public expressions of disappointment among party functionaries.

Similarly, Ajit Pawar's NCP declined an MoS post, having anticipated a full cabinet position. Party stalwart Chhagan Bhujbal's statement that the NCP should contest 80-90 seats to secure at least 50 MLAs further complicates the internal dynamics.

In the 2019 Maharashtra elections, the BJP, in alliance with the undivided Shiv Sena, contested 164 out of 288 seats, while the Shiv Sena contested 126 seats. This time, with Ajit Pawar's NCP now part of the Mahayuti, seat-sharing negotiations have become more complex.

The undivided NCP contested 121 seats previously, and both the Shiv Sena and the NCP are insisting on a significant number of seats, refusing to settle for less. There is even a possibility that the NCP might exit the Mahayuti.

The RSS, in one of its publications, has criticized the BJP for including Ajit Pawar in the alliance, suggesting it has tarnished the party's image.

Raj Thackeray recently announced that his party, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), will contest the Vidhan Sabha elections solo. However, the possibility of the MNS joining the NDA before the elections cannot be ruled out. Thackeray's support for the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls was seen as a quid-pro-quo arrangement, even though the MNS did not participate in those elections.

The opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) is also experiencing internal tensions.

After emerging as the largest party in Maharashtra in the Lok Sabha polls, the Congress has adopted an assertive stance. Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole's recent statement that his party is the "Big Brother" in the MVA has irked the Shiv Sena (UBT) and the NCP (Sharad Pawar).

In 2019, the Congress contested 147 seats. The seat-sharing process within the MVA is proving difficult, with relations between the Shiv Sena (UBT) and Congress strained.

During the Lok Sabha elections, the Shiv Sena (UBT) unilaterally announced its candidate for the Sangli seat, leading to a rift as the Congress candidate ran independently and won. Similar disputes arose during the MLC elections, with Nana Patole complaining that Uddhav Thackeray was unresponsive to his calls.

In a recent meeting with his party functionaries, Uddhav Thackeray urged them to prepare for contesting all 288 seats alone, indicating possible further fragmentation within the MVA.

Significant realignments are anticipated within both alliances in the coming days. The central leadership of the BJP is expected to intervene in the disputes within the Mahayuti, while in the MVA, Sharad Pawar will play a crucial role in maintaining alliance cohesion.

The assembly elections are likely to be announced in mid-September, setting the stage for intense political maneuvering.