A pre-poll alliance not able to form the government despite securing an absolute majority raises several questions over the principles on which the coalition was built. This does not augur well for the functioning of democracy as the message going down to the masses is that more than the good governance; the alliance was largely interested in the power and pelf. What should have taken just a day for the BJP and Shiv Sena to form a government in Maharashtra has stretched almost to a fortnight with both the parties struggling to come to terms since the election results were announced.
The two parties have been sharing love-hate relationship since they entered into an alliance first in 1989 for the Lok Sabha as well as Maharashtra state elections. The bromance did not last long and both the parties parted ways in 2014 over bitter differences regarding seat sharing. Both the BJP and Shiv Sena went to polls independently with none garnering enough seats to form a government on its own. Shiv Sena, which misread the pulse of the voters, contested in 282 of the 288 assembly seats winning only 63. The BJP, which contested lesser number of seats (260), emerged as the single largest party winning 122 seats. The Sena, which had then claimed to play the role of the opposition, soon had a change of heart and within two months kissed and patched up with the BJP to join the government in the state in December 2014.
Then again in January 2018, Shiv Sena raised the banner of revolt and announced to contest all future elections, including the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and Maharashtra assembly elections, alone. But by the time the 2019 general elections approached, it made a U-turn and announced the alliance with the BJP in February 2019 for the general elections as well as Maharashtra state assembly elections despite publicly huffing and puffing. In fact, Shiv Sena has been the shrillest opposition of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in the last few years with its leaders questioning Prime Minister Narendra Modi government at the centre and Devendra Fadnavis in the state over several issues. If the Shiv Sena revels in acting as an opposition party despite being in the government, it should have fought the elections independently and not enter into an unholy nexus.
Shiv Sena, which largely draws its strength from the Maratha community, has failed to replicate its success in 1995 when it contested 169 seats and won 73. It has not been able to penetrate in rural areas where its success rate is not too impressive. But it is driven by personal ambition to rule the state on its own. This explains the reason behind Shiv Sena’s demand for a 50:50 formula and rotation of chief minister post even though it won almost half of the seats in comparison to the BJP in the just-concluded elections. While the BJP bagged 105 seats, the Shiv Sena won 56, closely followed by National Congress Party (54) and the Congress 44 seats.
Though both the parties together have 161 seats, way past the half-way mark of 144, the Sena is playing hardball by demanding an equal share in the ministry besides the chief ministerial post for half the term largely due to the BJP’s tally dipping from 122 in the last assembly elections. With November 9 being the deadline by which time the government has to be sworn in otherwise the state will be headed to President’s rule, it remains to be seen which of the two saffron parties blinks first or will they go separate ways.
Politics is an unfamiliar territory where strange bedfellows become welcome friends. With so much of heartburn and mud-slinging from both sides, who knows Shiv Sena may well spring a surprise and realise its dream by coaxing the NCP and Congress to do the unimaginable. Only time will tell.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)