Maha verdict: Modi factor or sympathy for Uddhav, Pawar? | Mumbai News – Times of India

MUMBAI: Maharashtra is seeing what is easily one of the most riveting battles within the mammoth general elections which will be decided one way or the other on Tuesday, reports Priyanka Kakodkar. Verdict 2024 will reveal how the Modi factor squared off against splits in two major regional parties in the state, Shiv Sena and NCP. It may also settle the question of who really controls Sena and NCP.
Will the Mahayuti come up trumps or the Maha Vikas Aghadi? With the BMC polls kept pending, this will be among the first clear faceoffs between the two groupings.
Will the sympathy factor work for Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar or will voters validate the rebellion of Eknath Shinde and Ajit Pawar and approve of what the opposition has termed as BJP’s ‘Operation Lotus’? On the answers to these questions will depend the immediate future of the two rival alliances and also of the prominent personalities involved as the state heads in the direction of assembly polls slated for October this year.
All eyes will be on Maharashtra, which sends the second-highest number of MPs (48) to the Lok Sabha after UP and is the only state where ‘Operation Lotus’ has struck twice, splitting two regional parties. The state that had four key parties, now has six of them stacked up in alliances of three parties each: the BJP-led Mahayuti and the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA).

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In 2019, the saffron parties had swept Maharashtra with BJP and the undivided Shiv Sena winning 41 of the state’s 48 seats. The undivided NCP had won 4 seats and the Congress, which had ruled the state for decades, had to settle for a single seat.
The insurgent leaders, CM Eknath Shinde and Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar, have the bulk of legislators, the party name and symbol. But have they managed to capture the party’s vote base? For BJP, the result will also show if this strategy of breaking opposition parties can become a template for other states. The outcome will have immediate consequences for the assembly elections, just six months away.
The scorecard within allies of the Mahayuti and MVA will lead to a recasting of power equations when it comes to seat-sharing for the state polls.
Within the Shiv Sena and NCP, the faction that loses out could face an exodus as ticket-seekers will want to be on the winning side. This will raise questions about the longterm survival of that faction.
Both alliances clashed over seat-sharing in the runup to the polls. Within Mahayuti, the BJP has contested 28 seats, Shinde’s Shiv Sena 15, Ajit Pawar’s NCP got 4 and their ally RSP got one seat. Shinde punched above his weight and managed to wrest Nasik, Mumbai South and Thane from BJP, upsetting its rank and file.
Within MVA, the UBT Sena contested 21 seats, Congress 17 and NCP (SP) 10. Sena (UBT) insisted on contesting from Sangli and Mumbai South Central, upsetting Congress which had stronger candidates from these seats. This has resulted in Congress’s potential candidate Vishal Patil contesting as an independent from Sangli.
The splitting of Sena and NCP overwhelmed other issues in the state, especially in their strongholds Mumbai and the sugar belt of Western Maharashtra. The appeal of PM Modi or the incumbency he faced was also a macro factor. Other issues included price rise, unemployment, agrarian distress and the alleged flight of industry from Maharashtra to Gujarat.
An ger about the Maratha quota and the counter-consolidation of the OBC community are also expected to have a bearing on the vote. The results will also reveal if charges made by opposition that the poll outcome would lead to a change in the Constitution and impact the SC quota have resonated.
Tuesday’s result will impact the political future of key players in Maharashtra. For CM Shinde, a win will help him stay on in the chair. Dy CM Devendra Fadnavis needs a victory to remain the BJP’s main leader in the state and to dominate seat-sharing within Mahayuti for the assembly polls. For NCP’s Ajit Pawar, it’s crucial he score against his uncle, especially in their pocketborough Baramati, in order to survive on the political chessboard.
Both Uddhav and Sharad Pawar are fighting for survival, with legislators, party name and symbol taken from them. Sena lost 40 of its 56 MLAs in the rebellion and the Pawar’s party lost 41 out of 53 MLAs. Assembly speaker Rahul Narwekar ruled out violation of the anti-defection law in both cases and decreed the rebel group was the “real” party. The decisions have been challenged in court.
And for Congress, a win in this state which it once ruled is crucial for morale. Ahead of LS polls, it lost leaders Ashok Chavan and Milind Deora, who joined BJP and Sena and went on to win RS seats. A good showing in the LS polls is necessary for the party to keep its flock together ahead of the assembly polls.

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