Sena’s Bargaining Power With BJP Stays Intact, Thanks to Cong-NCP
Uddhav, Aaditya and the rest of the Sena should thank their rivals in the Opposition.
A strong showing by the Congress and NCP in Maharashtra that belied poll forecasts and pundits, has ended up helping the Shiv Sena preserve its bargaining power with senior alliance partner BJP.
Even though BJP remains the number one party in Maharashtra, and Devendra Fadnavis is set to return as CM, the party’s tally has gone down by around 20 seats compared to the 2014 Assembly polls, from 122 to just above 100.
Before counting day, there were a sense of worry in the Sena camp as well as among their political strategists in Prashant Kishor’s IPAC team, that a very strong performance by the BJP in the polls could relegate the Sena to a position of reduced importance in the alliance. Here’s how the Congress and NCP prevented that from happening.
The Narrative in the Numbers
- In 2014, BJP and Sena had contested independently and then formed a post-poll alliance. The BJP won 122 constituencies of the 260 it fought, almost double of the Sena’s 63 seats out of 282.
- This time around, the Sena contested in only 126 seats, less than half the strength of the 288-member Assembly, and has won or is leading in 57 constituencies. The BJP on the other hand contested 164 seats and has won or is leading in 102 of them.
With the BJP contesting as many as 164 seats, there was a chance of them winning more than 130 or 135 seats if they had a showing as impressive as that in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. If the BJP did come that close to the majority mark of 145 on their own, the Sena would have likely been pushed further into a back seat in cabinet formation and governance.
But now, with the BJP barely touching the 100 mark, more than 40 seats away from the magic figure, the Sena’s importance in the alliance is not in question.
What Next for Aaditya Thackeray?
Even before the Sena announced that Aaditya Thackeray would be the first member of the party’s first family to contest elections, the Sena scion’s potential role in the next government was the subject of intense speculation.
Would Aaditya take up a role in the Fadnavis-led cabinet? Would the Sena demand that he be given the post of deputy CM? Or would he stay away from the cabinet, and serve just as an MLA instead?
The exit polls showing BJP closing in on the magic figure on their own put a pause on the incessant speculation, because it was most likely that if that were to happen, the BJP would have chosen to not have a deputy CM at all, as it did in the previous term.
But now, with the BJP dropping to around 100, there is again the possibility that Aaditya Thackeray will be given a significant ministerial berth if he wishes to join the cabinet. The deputy chief minister’s post is another possibility.
Regardless of the posts he holds though, Aaditya’s win in Worli with a margin of over 60,000 votes has heralded his entry into the centre of Maharashtra politics, and his tenure and performance as MLA will be one to watch out for.
Stronger Say in Cabinet Berth Allocation
A few hours after counting started, when trends showed that the BJP would not be able to reach anywhere close to 145 on their own, there was talk of the Congress-NCP offering the Sena a shot at government formation with their support and by excluding the BJP. Even though it was unlikely that such an eventuality would actually occur, it reiterated the Sena’s relevance in the alliance.
Whether they press for the post of Deputy CM to be given to the party or not (even if it’s not to Aaditya), the Sena will definitely have a stronger say in portfolio allocation than what they would have, had the exit polls proved accurate.
Uddhav, Aaditya and the rest of the Sena should thank their rivals in the Opposition because none of this would have happened had the Congress and NCP not performed better than expected in this election, with wins/leads in 45 and 54 seats respectively.
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