Mumbai: The ruling BJP-Shiv Sena combine will take on the opposition Congress-NCP in Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra.
Opposition is trying to build a rainbow coalition of all non-BJP-Sena forces. However, the key to the success of the coalition is in the hands of smaller players including MNS president Raj Thackeray, former Lok Sabha MP Prakash Ambedkar and farmer leader Raju Shetti.
In the last general elections in 2014, the BJP and Shiv Sena bagged 24 and 18 seats respectively in the state out of the total 48 seats. Opposition won only at only six seats and stalwarts like then union minister Sushilkumar Shinde had bowed out.
Sena had earlier said it would contest the elections on its own strength. But the BJP has ensured that it is again on its side. However, years of acrimony since 2014 have led to bad blood between the cadres, according to leaders from both parties.
The BJP had ended its 25-year-old partnership with Shiv Sena before the state assembly elections in 2014 but emerged as the single-largest party with 122 seats with the support of its four smaller allies.
The Sena lost its status as the senior partner in the saffron alliance and had to finally join the Maharashtra cabinet in a subordinate role.
‘We will have smooth sailing as Shiv Sena is with us’
Finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said, “Our main campaign plank will be making Narendra Modi the prime minister again. We will have smooth sailing as the Shiv Sena is with us.”
The BJP aims to capitalise on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image and the backdrop of the Balakot air strike, to target winning 45 seats.
The BJP is also planning to fight anti-incumbency by not fielding some sitting MPs, including in Solapur, Ahmednagar (where Congress opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil’s son Sujay is in the fray) and Pune.
On the other hand the Congress and NCP are trying to recover lost ground by roping in Dr BR Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar, who heads the Bharatiya Republican Paksha- Bahujan Mahasangh, and Raju Shetti.