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Survey Shows Maharashtra is the State to Watch in 2024: Full Story in 3 Charts

The state is vertically divided on whether Narendra Modi should be PM again.

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With 48 seats, Maharashtra is the second biggest state in the Lok Sabha after Uttar Pradesh. In the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Maharashtra is becoming one of the most difficult states to predict.

In this article, we will be closely looking at a recent survey by Sakal group to try and understand what's happening in Maharashtra. We will also be comparing it to the findings of other recent surveys to decode on what aspects the sentiment in Maharashtra is in line with the national sentiment and where there is a divergence between the two.

State Vertically Divided on PM Modi

When people were asked 'Do you feel Prime Minister Narendra Modi should become the PM again, 42.1 percent respondents said that he should become PM again while 41.5 said that they don't want him to be the PM again. 16.4 percent respondents said they didn't know or couldn't say.

Maharashtra may be one of the most vertically divided states nationally as far as PM Modi's popularity is concerned.

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Past surveys indicate that on one hand there are states like Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand where the overwhelming sentiment seems to be in favour of PM Modi. On the other hand, in states like Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Kerala, the sentiment is mostly against the PM.

Maharashtra being almost equally divided between pro-Modi and anti-Modi voters with a sizable number of undecided people, makes it very difficult to predict.

This near equal division between pro-Modi and anti-Modi camps also means that both sides are getting substantial support from all caste groups. This is unlike the Hindi belt and Gujarat, where the BJP had a clear lead among Upper Caste and OBC voters.

Battle for the Shiv Sena Vote

One of the biggest X-factors in Maharashtra is the Shiv Sena. The 2024 Lok Sabha election will be the first major election after the 2022 Sena split.

The Shinde group seems to have won the battle for the party name and symbol. A majority of MLAs and MPs are also with them.

However, according to the Sakal survey, it is Uddhav Thackeray's Sena that is getting the lion's share of Sena votes.

About 12.5 percent respondents said that they plan to vote for Uddhav Thackeray's party as opposed to 5.5 percent who picked Shinde's party, less than half of the former.

This is bad news for Shinde and his group. If this is their strength on the ground, their future as a party and identity may be under threat. And sooner or later they may get squeezed between the BJP on one hand and Uddhav Thackeray's Sena on the other.

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There's another aspect that both the camps need to reflect on. The overall quantum of Shiv Sena votes - including both Thackeray's and Shinde's Senas - is about 18 percent. This is a significant reduction from the 23.5 percent that Sena secured in 2019 and 20 percent it secured in 2014.

In 2009, it had secured a vote share of 17 percent - that was itself at a low moment in its history as it had just suffered a split with the formation of the MNS.

BJP's Dominance vs MVA's Arithmetic

According to the survey, 33.7 percent said they plan to vote for the BJP. This is significant, because no party in Maharashtra has managed to secure over 30 percent votes since the Congress split in 1998. This is the case in both central and state elections.

BJP clearly seems to be emerging as the dominant pole of Maharashtra politics. This is a phase which began in 2014 and has since intensified.

By including local and sub-regional notables from Congress and NCP, the party has expanded its influence.

In contrast to the BJP's dominance, the Congress, NCP and Uddhav Thackeray's Sena are all below 20 percent in the Sakal survey. And the Shinde Sena is just 5.5 percent.

However, the BJP's dominance is still nowhere close to what it enjoys in Gujarat and much of the Hindi belt.

The main tussle in Maharashtra will be between the BJP's dominance and the Maha Vikas Aghadi's arithmetic. According to the Sakal survey, the MVA's combined vote share is around 48 percent, a good 10 percentage points over the combined vote share of the NDA.

Now, it is still unclear whether the MVA will be able to crack seat-sharing. And even if they do, there are doubts whether there would be a smooth transfer of votes, especially between the Sena and the Congress-NCP.

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Mixed View on Modi Govt's Performance

The Sakal survey revealed strong support for PM Modi for 'improving India's standing on the world stage. The Modi government was also seen positively due to the ongoing construction of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya as well as the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.

On the other hand, respondents said that price rise and unemployment are the biggest problems they are facing.

According to the survey, 39.3 percent respondents said that price rise is the biggest failure of the Modi government, 18.6 said it is unemployment and 12 percent said fuel price hike.

It is significant that nearly 70 percent respondents picked economic issues as the main failures of the Modi government.

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What Lies Ahead?

  • The challenge for the MVA is to crack seat-sharing in an equitable way and ensure there is smooth cooperation between cadres at the ground level.

  • Then there's the question of vote transfer. The Congress-NCP is an old alliance, with similar, though not identical, bases and ideology. Transfer between the two parties is not a big problem. The problem lies with the Shiv Sena base. Will Shiv Sena voters transfer their votes to the Congress and NCP in seats outside its quota? Or will they go with the BJP-Shinde alliance? Which factor will be more dominant - loyalty to the Thackerays and opposition to BJP, or Hindutva?

  • There's also the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, which has a predicted vote share of 2.9 percent in the Sakal survey. It is presently an ally of Uddhav Thackeray's Sena but doesn't share a good equation with the NCP.

  • For the NDA, a major challenge is to counter the clear numerical advantage that the MVA has. If the MVA constituents are able to ensure a smooth transfer of votes among themselves, Maharashtra will be a washout for the BJP. But a complete transfer is unlikely. Problem for the NDA is that it got 41 seats in 2019 so even a partial transfer between the MVA constituents could lead to a loss of about 15 seats for the NDA.

  • Some would say that frequent communal incidents in Maharashtra work to the NDA's advantage and prepare the ground for a larger consolidation.

The NDA may be tempted to dissolve the Maharashtra assembly early and go for the Assembly polls along with the Lok Sabha elections just to disturb the MVA's seat sharing.
  • The real battle for all the parties in Maharashtra, is the Assembly election. The MVA constituents may be thinking that it would still be easy to crack seat sharing for the Lok Sabha polls and the Assembly poll distribution can be decided later. But if both polls happen together, it could get complicated.

  • The problem for the BJP is the Shinde group. Besides a token move to appease Maratha voters and the individual base of a few Shinde faction leaders, the party doesn't seem to be adding much value. Giving it too much during seat sharing could be harmful for the BJP. On the other hand, not giving it sufficient number of seats would put a question on the party's relevance itself.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Shiv Sena   Uddhav Thackeray   Opinion Poll 

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