State of the States

Formals out Informals In

An interesting battle is building up in the Maharashtra Assembly elections , with old alliances breaking up but new combines yet not on the horizon.

Constituents of the two major opposite camps in the state have fallen out, making it anybody’s game in the coming October 15 , 2014 Assembly elections. The Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party, NCP, have called it quits to their coalition which ruled the state for over a decade. On the other hand , the Shiv Sena and the BJP , which rules at the Centre, have ended their quarter century old alliance after the breaking down of their talks on seat sharing in the Assembly elections.

BJP wish to hog all Centres of Power

The BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s desire to hog all sources and centres of power in the country appears to have played a major role in the break up with the Shiv Sena. The Chief Minister’s post in the country’s industrial powerhouse , Maharashtra, was at the centre of the power play, which led to the break up of the 25 year old BJP-Shiv Sena alliance. On the one hand, the BJP wanted to have a shy at the Chief Minister’s post even though it lacked a top leader for the post, after the recent demise of Gopinath Munde in a road accident. The Shiv Sena, on the other hand, wanted the position to come to it in line with past precedent. Uddhav Thackeray, son of the late Shiv Sena supremo, Bal Thackeray is its prime aspirant for the Chief Minister’s post.

Fight for Chief Minister’s position

The BJP, as part of its move to get the Chief Minister’s position, wanted modification of its earlier arrangement with the Shiv Sena, where it contested more seats in the Lok Sabha elections, but lesser in the elections to the Legislative Assembly . The arrangement had held fast in the last 25 years. But the BJP now wanted more seats allocated in the Assembly Elections than the 120 odd it used to contest in the previous elections.

Modi’s party thought that after its stellar performance in the general elections to the Lok Sabha earlier this year, the allies with whom the party had fought the polls in different states, should see the writing on the wall and agree to toe the BJP line on all issues and defer to the national party in all spheres. The BJP’s breaking the alliance with the Haryana Janhit Congress earlier was a clear pointer towards the party’s increasing intolerance of allies after winning a clear majority in the Lok Sabha on its own.

Losers Try Out Fresh Tactics

On the other hand, after the debacle suffered in the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress and its allies in the erstwhile United Progressive Alliance, UPA, have been thinking of ways in which they could turn the adverse tide and make a new beginning. But they are thinking and acting as individual parties and not as an alliance. In Bihar, the Congress chose to ally with the erstwhile opponents, the Janata Dal United and passive supporters, Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal,RJD, in the recently held Assembly bye elections , which was a positive move.

The Congress has also taken heart from the results of Assembly bye elections held post Lok Sabha polls, which show that the BJP has slipped since its spectacular performance in the general elections.

NCP looks for Fresh Pastures

Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party, NCP, on the other hand, is thinking of new openings and fresh pastures to regain a nook in Maharashtra’s power structure. We may not go by what Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray has said, but his allegation that the NCP was partly responsible for the BJP breaking up with the Shiv Sena needs to be looked at, if not accepted totally.

Maharashtra Results could be Surprising

In Maharashtra , the four major parties, the Congress, the NCP, the Shiv Sena and the BJP are dominant parties in specific regions of the state. This is what makes the battle interesting. Lack of formal alliances means that each party will be challenged by its erstwhile allies and opposite parties in its area of dominance. Unless a wave is created, as in the Lok Sabha elections, the results could be surprising, and throw up a hung house. This will make it necessary to revive ties with old allies, or to stitch up new coalitions.

The old power sharing model has collapsed in Maharashtra but the shape of the new structure will become clear only when the results of the October 15, 2014 Assembly elections come in.