BJP President Amit Shah with Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Photograph: PTI

Why The Fight For 48 Lok Sabha Seats In Maharashtra Is Closer Than It Seems

An alliance with the Shiv Sena, promises of quotas to the Maratha community and farm loan waivers may still not be enough for the Bharatiya Janata Party to repeat its 2014 performance in Maharashtra.

In the last Lok Sabha elections, the BJP and the Shiv Sena together bagged 42 out of the 48 parliamentary seats in Maharashtra, propelled by the Modi wave. “The so-called Modi wave is on the wane,” Girish Kuber, editor of the Loksatta newspaper said, claiming that the severe water scarcity that two-thirds of the state is witnessing will be a bigger factor this election season.

Rising rural distress has seen a number of protests in the state of Maharashtra over the last five years. While the state’s BJP-led government has issued farm loan waivers in response to agitations, the relief provided has been questioned by farmer groups.

It will be tough election for Shiv Sena and BJP. I suspect the ruling alliance will have severe challenge especially in rural areas.
Girish Kuber, Editor, Loksatta

The BJP and Shiv Sena formally announced their alliance for the Lok Sabha elections last month, after months of bitter acrimony. The Shiv Sena has been strident in its criticism of the BJP despite being an alliance partner in the Maharashtra state government as well. The decision to fight together despite the bitterness was seen as a political compulsion.

The Congress and NCP, meanwhile, have not yet announced a formal seat sharing formula so far. NCP Chief Sharad Pawar’s recent announcement that he would not be contesting Lok Sabha elections also set the cat among the pigeons. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said the senior politician had sensed the tide was turning.

“What is the big deal?” asked senior journalist Sujata Anandan. Anandan points out that Pawar didn’t contest in the last general election either. Pawar has said he will not contest because there are other members of his family in the fray.

We have not had four to five Pawars contesting Lok Sabha elections. It would be obscene if Pawar gave a ticket to everyone in his family. He has to set an example
Sujata Anandan, Senior political journalist

Maharashtra, with 48 Lok Sabha seats, is only second to Uttar Pradesh in the list of largest number of seats in the Lok Sabha. Moreover, the state assembly elections will take place a few months after the Lok Sabha election which makes the contest in the state even keener.

Why The Fight For 48 Lok Sabha Seats In Maharashtra Is Closer Than It Seems
Why The Fight For 48 Lok Sabha Seats In Maharashtra Is Closer Than It Seems

Caste considerations will play a big part. The Maratha community that accounts for nearly half the population in the state backed Narendra Modi’s bid for Prime Minister in 2014. This switch from a community that traditionally backs the NCP and by extension the Congress effectively turned the tide for the BJP that went from fourth position to first in the last polls. But the promise of quotas to the community have been entangled in a legal process. Rural distress also has hit this agrarian community hard which makes this block of voters unpredictable.

Lok Sabha elections usually don’t see prominence of caste equations. It is left for assembly elections. But this time the caste factor will be discussed very prominently all over the state.
Rohit Chandavarkar, Resident Editor, Sakal Times

Girish Kuber, Sujata Anandan and Rohit Chandavarkar speak to Tamanna Inamdar about the political scenario in Maharashtra. Watch the full debate here