The exit polls have reiterated what pundits and politicians alike have been predicting in Maharashtra – an emphatic return to power by the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena combine. With the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party camps also not upbeat about their chances, many had termed this election “a foregone conclusion.”But there is one important aspect of this election that is anything but foregone – if the BJP comes close to the magic figure of 145 on its own, what exactly will the position of the Shiv Sena be in the new government?
Will they be relegated to a status similar to what they have in the Centre – where they are in government, but for all practical purposes, it is the BJP with its absolute majority that is calling all the shots?
Speak to those within the Shiv Sena right now, and it is amply clear that this is their biggest concern going into counting day on Thursday, 24 October.
How Close Will BJP Get to Magic Figure as Per Exit Polls?
The majority mark, or magic figure, in the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly is 145. Here’s how close to 145 the BJP is expected to get, according to different exit polls.
- BJP: 141
- Shiv Sena: 102
- BJP 4 seats away from the magic figure of 145.
Republic TV-Jan Ki Baat:
- BJP: 135-142
- Shiv Sena: 81-88
- BJP 3-10 seats shy of the majority mark on its own
While the exit polls by India Today-Axis My India, ABP-CVoter and Times Now show the overall alliance numbers – all three indicate that the BJP-Sena combine is expected to romp home.Axis My India predicts 166-194 seats for the saffron alliance, CVoter puts them at 204, and Times Now pegs them even higher at 230.
Therefore, the surveys by IPSOS and Jan Ki Baat have the BJP poised very close to the majority mark. Times Now’s forecast of 230 for the alliance, and CVoter’s estimate of 204 would likely also have the BJP in the vicinity of the magic figure.
Barring Axis My India, the four other surveys all seem to suggest that the BJP might be close to 145 on its own.
If the BJP improves its tally from the 122 seats it won in the 2014 Assembly polls by around a dozen seats, it is this proximity to 145 that might push Sena further into a back seat in government formation and sustenance.Sena had won 63 seats in 2014, and though they are likely to improve their own numbers this time around, it might not improve their relative power in the alliance because the BJP’s predicted strength is likely to be close to the majority mark without Sena’s assistance.
What Does This Mean for Aaditya Thackeray’s Ambitions?
With these Assembly polls witnessing Aaditya Thackeray becoming the first member of Sena’s first family to contest elections, there was elaborate speculation about whether the Thackeray scion would look towards being appointed as the Deputy CM of the state.But if the BJP’s relative dominance within the alliance becomes stronger, this may remain a pipe dream of the Sena cadre, at least for now.
Aaditya, if he intends to do so, may still take up a Cabinet position, but the Sena might not be able to secure him too crucial a berth. The BJP will also be acutely conscious of not giving Aaditya too much of a leg up in his rise as a political leader, and denying a significant Cabinet berth could align with that objective.
In short, the BJP closing in on 145 is not great news for the Sena scion.
Indicators From the Past
In 1995, when the Sena-BJP combine came to power in Maharashtra for the first time, the BJP, having secured a few seats lesser than the Sena, had to settle for the role of junior partner. But because both parties needed each other to form the government, and eventually keep it afloat, it ensured that the BJP’s Gopinath Munde got the post of Deputy CM, and was second-in-command to Sena’s Manohar Joshi, who was appointed for the top job.
In 2014, the second time that the saffron alliance won in Maharashtra, the tables had turned decisively. The BJP was the senior partner, and Sena had to play second fiddle, with around 60 seats fewer than the BJP. Given the considerably changed dynamic in favour of the BJP, CM Devendra Fadnavis went without having a deputy CM.In 2019 too, if the exit poll numbers hold on counting day, the BJP will likely stick to that position, and avoid having a deputy CM in the government.