Maharashtra continues to hold suspense over the shape of the next government even though people of the state gave a clear mandate to the ruling coalition in the assembly election. Two alliances were in contest for power in Maharashtra, the BJP-Shiv Sena's NDA and the NCP-Congress representing the UPA.
Now, post-election, it appears all the four major parties are calculating their own moves separately, throwing out various possible combinations for government formation. Each has its own set of options before it.
It is the most vocal among the Big Four of Maharashtra politics, and the second most populous group in the assembly. Shiv Sena won 56 seats in the Maharashtra Assembly election seven less than 2014. But it has staked claim to the Chief Minister’s Office, though on rotational basis.
The options before Shiv Sena for forming government in Maharashtra are two. One, Shiv Sena may go with the BJP staying true to promise made to voters with or without its conditions of power-sharing being accepted.
Secondly, it can align with the NCP-Congress. The NCP got 54 seats while the Congress won 44. Both improved their tally over 2014, thereby earning the explanation for pushing the BJP out of power, if they align with the Shiv Sena. The three parties have 154 seats in the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly.
The Nationalist Congress Party of Sharad Pawar emerged as the real gainer from the Maharashtra Assembly election. Many, especially those sensing a BJP sweep in Maharashtra, had written off Sharad Pawar and his NCP. But both got good response from the voters.
The NCP has two options to return to power in Maharashtra. It may stitch an alliance with the BJP burying the acrimony of the election campaign. This can easily be done over a telecom between Sharad Pawar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has publicly hailed him as his political mentor. The BJP and the NCP have 159 MLAs in the new assembly.
The other option is to play the Maratha card and join hands with the Shiv Sena while taking the Congress along for the cushion of majority. The Congress would be happy to help just to ensure the BJP loses one more state despite talk of Modi wave.
The Congress, too, has an outside chance of returning to power. It has, anyway, never remained out of power for two consecutive terms in Maharashtra before. It can have a truck with the Shiv Sena along with the NCP.
Here, it has two alternatives, if at all this happens. One option is to join a Shiv Sena-NCP government and claims victory for stealing another state under the nose of Narendra Modi-Amit Shah pair.
Secondly, the Congress may play the kingmaker and declare outside support to a Shiv Sena-NCP government. This way, the Congress may have control over the power levers of Maharashtra.
The BJP, which emerged as the single-largest party as 2014 but with reduced strength, too has a few alternatives. The straightforward option, which appears to the most likely outcome, is to strike a bargain with the Shiv Sena on give some, take some principle and form the government for the third time in Maharashtra.
The BJP has 105 seats 17 less than 2014 but in alliance with the Shiv Sena, they have 161 MLAs in the newly elected Maharashtra Assembly.
The second option is to dump the Shiv Sena accusing it of blackmail after the alliance’s victory in election and win over Sharad Pawar’s NCP. Sharad Pawar, in a similar situation in 2014, had offered unconditional support to the BJP for stability in Maharashtra. Sharad Pawar may still find that explanation valid in return for a share in power for the NCP.
Thirdly, the BJP can do the unthinkable to arrive at an arrangement with the Congress to shield the two parties with nationwide presence from blackmail by smaller parties with regional considerations and astronomical ambition.
The BJP and the Congress will have a strength of 149 MLAs in such a hitherto hypothetical alliance. A majority government in Maharashtra needs only 146 MLAs on the floor of the assembly.
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