The two alliance partners-Shiv Sena and the BJP in Maharashtra have been at loggerheads following the fractured 2019 Maharashtra Assembly elections mandate declared on October 24. While the Sena has been adamant on what it claims a “pre-poll agreement” with the BJP on sharing the position of CM for 2.5 years each, the BJP, on the other hand, has clearly denied of having agreed upon any such arrangement with its whimsical alliance partner.
The ensuing imbroglio has put the state in a limbo as there is not a single party with a clear majority to stake a claim at the government. The BJP is the single-largest party with 105 seats out of the total 288 Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha seats. Its ally Shiv Sena has bagged 56 seats. The opposition parties NCP and Congress have scored 54 and 44 respectively. However, none of them is individually close to the 145 mark required to form a government in the state, although the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance has a clear majority.
The 2019 Assembly elections bear a stark resemblance with the 2014 Maharashtra Assembly elections, in which, the BJP, riding on the popularity of PM Narendra Modi, emerged as the single-largest party with 122 seats but was still slightly behind the 145-mark required for staking a claim at the government. Shiv Sena, being its usual self, with 63 seats was holding the BJP to ransom that time also, trying to broker a “respectable deal” before extending its support. The NCP had then won on 41 seats while the Congress emerged victorious on 42 seats.
Though BJP and Shiv Sena fought the 2014 Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha elections independently, the power tussle between the two parties continued as Sena attempted to negotiate a favourable bargain with the BJP post the election results realising that the BJP is short of the required number to form a stable government in the state.
With the coalition between the two parties uncertain, the NCP chief Sharad Pawar then declared that he would provide an outside support to the 122-member BJP and abstain from future trust vote in the Assembly. The BJP had then claimed to have the support of 10 independent MLAs. NCP MLAs abstaining from the assembly would have brought the count down from 288 to 247 and the BJP would have had the necessary numbers to form a minority government.
Pawar had reasoned that to avoid the need to have fresh elections, he and his party took a “conscious and collective decision” of supporting the minority government of the BJP. However, he ensured that the party would play the role of an effective opposition.
The NCP’s offer was regarded as “mega-clout” for the BJP to negotiate the modalities of an alliance with the Shiv Sena which was under tremendous pressure realising its rapidly shrinking leverage over the BJP. Amit Shah too did not turn down NCP’s offer stating that the party’s parliamentary board, PM Modi would discuss the options. Finally, the uncertainty ended with the Shiv Sena and the BJP coming together to form an alliance and stake a claim at the government.