We may not have seen this happen at the national level. But in Maharashtra, 56-parties have come together under one umbrella, ready to take on BJP-Sena alliance.
No, we are not talking about the ‘ by now famous 56 inches’ Chest girths, our story is about a amalgamation of 56 small & big parties having come together in the state of Maharashtra under one common platform in a bid to stop the BJP-Sena from winning most of the seats in the coming Lok Sabha polls. In a refreshing change from the rest of India election theatre, this stitching together of a strong ‘Mahaghatbandhan’ (grand alliance) is an interesting development in the current national scenario. It is too early to speculate what impact this pre-poll understanding would have on the poll prospects of BJP-Sena combine, however the nature & spirit with which such a conglomeration has come about is in itself a welcome departure from the pusillanimity & indifference shown by political parties in other parts of the country.
Congress & NCP are the two biggest partners in the ‘grand alliance’ who in turn have decided to accommodate some of the smaller partners by keeping four seats from their respective quotas, out of the total 48 constituencies in the state. The parties which are expected to fight the elections under the banner of ‘United Progressive Grand Alliance’ are: two seats for Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS), and one each for Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) and Yuva Swabhimani Party (YSP). In contrast, the ruling BJP-Sena alliance has given a short shrift to all its smaller allies by dividing the 48 seats among themselves in the ratio of 25:23, sparking resentment, especially in the Republican Party of India (A) led by Union Minister for Social Welfare Ramdas Athawale.
This development has provided oxygen to the fledgling opposition unity in the sate & elsewhere where the opposition has been slow in taking off the starting point & is even seen to have ceded some additional ground to its opponents, mainly the BJP. Launching a scathing tirade, state Congress President Ashok Chavan and former chief minister, said that many other parties were keen to join the UPGA, but were prevented by the politics of ‘Saam, Daam, Dand, Bhed’ (by any means) pursued by the BJP. He accused the BJP of using divisive politics in its attempt to divide the secular votes vis-A-vis their communal politics, but the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ would ensure unity and justice for all sections of society including farmers, minorities, Dalits, SC/ST, women, workers and the youth, he added.
Elaborating further, Ashok Chavan said “This (BJP-Sena) government has made false assurances, announcements and promises which remained unfulfilled in the past five years, thus committing a fraud on the peoples’ trust. The people will not forget or forgive and teach them a lesson in the next elections,” Chavan said. State NCP President Jayant Patil charged Prime Minister Narendra Modi with indulging in hypocrisy by quietly sending wishes to Pakistan PM, and attacked the government on various other major issues where it had failed. “This ‘Mahagathbandhan’ will free the people of the country who are tired of the promises of ‘achhe din’ made by Modi,” Patil said. Former Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said there were huge hurdles in forming the ‘grand alliance’ with efforts thwarted at every stage, but everything was overcome.
Had the two other smaller parties like the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi & AIMIM of the owaisi brothers also been a part of the UPGA, there would have much serious headache for the BJP – Sena combine. This notwithstanding, coming together of these parties shall sure chip away some seats off the two Hindutva parties & one wouldn’t be surprised if the alliance needs up with more seats than the defendants. Given that nearly 25 per cent of the candidates of the BJP-Sena are imported from other parties, the indications of anti-incumbency are bound to surface more sharply as we head closer to the polling date. Other speakers lashed out at the BJP for betraying the farmers, the youth, students and commoners on all fronts, unleashing unemployment and inflation, under the “dictatorial” style of functioning by Modi. Besides the leaders of all the 56 parties in the Mahagathbandhan, several prominent leaders included former Congress minister Naseem Khan, NCP’s former Deputy CM Chhagan Bhujbal, Jitendra Awhad, SSS’s Raju Shetti, BVA’s Hitendra Thakur and others.
Understandably, the concern for the challengers viz Congress & NCP is how the MGB should be pitched so that its arithmetic potential translates into desired electoral outcome and the not inconsiderable risk of the MGB being popularly perceived as a gang-up against Narendra Modi, who has successfully painted himself as a heroic figure battling phantom saboteurs of every conceivable type, is avoided. The other issue that merits reflection at this juncture is the extent to which even a well-structured and agenda-wise sorted MGB can impact the BJP’s Sena chances and whether it will be sufficient to deny the incumbent another stint in power.
Given that there is no Grander Alliance in most of the other states, it continues to be a tough ask for the ragtag opposition to thwart & upset the Modi applecart by just hoping & wishing that the electorate would side with the challengers opinion & hence they alone would do absolute justice to their right to franchise. Curiously the MGB had the potential to dampen the BJP’s prospects in two ways. One, it could deny the BJP the kind of inroads it expects in ‘new’ territories and make its return to power contingent on repeating its impressive 2014 showing in several states. Two, it could dent the BJP’s chances of repeating its 2014 performance in some key states. Now that Congress doesn’t have any structured tie-up in place in bellwether state of UP, it still stands a chance of ruining BJPs seat winning scope by chipping away with some upper caste vote, while hoping that its other major vote bank of Muslims & dalits doesn’t weaken the other two main opponents BSP & SP.
Nonetheless, Maharashtra may have shown what it takes to be arithmetic & Chemistry savvy if one has the real intent of ushering in a change that is desirable.