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Assembly Springboard?

Monday, May 20, 2019
By Prashant Hamine

Much of the fate of the Assembly elections that follow in September-October depends on the outcome of this on-going 2019 Lok Sabha elections, at least in Maharashtra. It is not without any rhyme or reason that Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar has begun touring the drought affected regions of the state.

Taking the cue from him, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray has begun wooing the farming community with an emotional appeal and a morcha in Thane. The Congress too understands the political significance of the situation. Everyone in the opposition understands the political implications of it for the future.

As it is often said everybody loves a good drought, for the political spin-offs it brings with it. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is battling with the situation with his back to the wall. Add to that the Reservation Quota issue of Maratha youths in the Post Graduate Medical and Dental courses is another challenge that Fadnavis has to tackle. Add to that the Election Commission of India (ECI) has tied the governments hands with a Model Code of Conduct (MCC) that I'm effect does not allow it to use staff on poll duty.

Any slip or massive electoral drubbing in these Lok Sabha elections may not directly affect the electoral fortunes, but it will certainly bring hope and spring in the stride of the opposition that they can grab power in the state, should there be a hung Lok Sabha or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) not achieving clear majority on its own.

Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut has already argued that the BJP on its own will not get absolute majority of its own and will have to rely on its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners like the Sena to help it cross the finishing line. In effect it means that should the BJP fall short of the threshold the NDA allies will be back to their usual nasty best in arm twisting the BJP and extracting their pound of flesh for their support to the BJP government.

But poll surveys are predicting a severe electoral drubbing for the Sena in these Lok Sabha elections. Should that happen, Senas bargaining power will greatly be reduced both in government formation in Delhi and also in connection with the Assembly elections that follow later on in the year. A poor performance in this general elections is also going to virtually nullify it's agreement with the BJP of sharing the Chief Ministers post for two and half years.

The Sena, more than the BJP has to worry about the MNS gaining traction amongst the voters with its election pitch. His unsolicited election campaign for the Lok Sabha polls may have warmed the cockles the hearts of the Congress and NCP, MNS chief Raj Thackeray may not be that benign enough on them in the Assembly elections for its the question of survival of him and his MNS. It all depends on how the electorate views his unsolicited  Lok Sabha campaign. If he does hurt the Sena as he did in 2009 Assembly elections he will be a game spoiler again this time for whom, only time will tell.

Mindful of the unsolicited support that the NCP had offered to the BJP in 2014 when full Assembly elections results were yet to be announced, Sena president Uddhav Thackeray has already implored the BJP to welcome anybody in its partyfold, but not the NCP. Is the Sena weary that history might just repeat itself all over again.

A loss for the BJP, Sena in the Lok Sabha elections means that a setback for it in those many Assembly seats in the assembly elections later on in the year. This will clearly give the opposition Congress, NCP a chance to wrest power back from the BJP, Sena sooner than later. Hence issues like drought and Maratha reservation issue are once again on the boil in this poll season. A springboard for some?

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