Is Fadnavis the biggest loser in the Assembly polls?

Maharashtra election results have been declared. While BJP and Shiv Sena alliance has been able to retain the state, their performance has been much below expectations. NDA has won 161 seats, 50 less than poll of polls predicted. Its tally is 24 lesser than the 2014 combined tally of 185 seats. Congress which was in shambles, has managed to increase its tally from 42 to 44. That’s unbelievable. Old war horse Pawar’s NCP which was facing an existential crisis has emerged as the senior partner in the UPA with 54 seats, a gain of 13. UPA which was expected to get around 60 seats as per poll of polls has nearly scored a century.

For BJP, which won 122 seats contesting alone in 2014, a loss of 17 seats in 2019, contesting with Shiv Sena, is not something which it could be proud of, however, brave front it may put up. Fadnavis who had built an image of a master strategist and one who had emerged as the tallest leader of BJP in the state, has received a drubbing. The senior leaders who had been sidelined will be emboldened. The trouble making ally Shiv Sena will now demand its pound of flesh.

The aura of invincibility has disappeared. As per TOI report, he could be moved to Delhi mid-way through his second term as Chief Minister. In his constituency Nagpur South West, Fadnavis could win by 50,000 votes, down 9,000 from previous election. Fadnavis had total control in ticket distribution, and he will have to take the blame for this slip up. He blamed the rebels for the loss in a press conference yesterday. Fadnavis claimed 15 rebels who won as independents / on ticket of small regional parties are in touch with him. We might see a mad rush to induct them so that the tally of BJP inches closer to 2014 numbers.

The defectors who had been poached by Fadnavis, from Congress and NCP, to shore up BJP’s prospects, had a mixed bag of results. While ex-Congress leader Harshvardhan Patil and ex-NCP leader Jaydutt Kshirsagar, lost elections, Rana Jagjitsinha Patil and Nitesh Rana, won on BJP ticket. High profile Shivaji descendant Udayranje Bhosale who resigned from his Lok Sabha seat, which he won 5 months ago, had to bite the dust.

Reasons why Fadnavis position has weakened:

1. Opposition parties have gained while BJP lost

While NCP gained 13 seats and Congress 2 seats, BJP lost 17 seats. Partner Sena also lost 7 seats.

2. Big losses in Vidarbha, in his own backyard

Bulk of the losses of BJP came from the Vidarbha region which is the hotbed of farmer suicides and drought. Vidarbha is the home-turf of Fadnavis, union minister Gadkari also hails from the region. RSS headquarters is in Nagpur in Vidarbha. The party also ceded the top position to NCP in Western Maharashtra. Pawar’s NCP made its comeback as the number one party in the sugar belt. BJP’s tally in W. Maharashtra fell by 4 seats.

3. Sena raising demand for 50:50 formula

In a press conference held yesterday, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, toughened his stand, due to weakening of BJP. He demanded that ‘time has come for BJP to follow what was promised by Amit bhai’. Implying BJP-Sena should occupy the CM chair by rotation for 2.5 years each and Sena should get 50% of cabinet portfolios. Fadnavis in his press conference replied that they will honour whatever has been decided by the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance earlier.

In a Samna editorial today Sena has issued a stern warning to BJP – ati nahin, unmaad nahin – don’t be arrogant over power. It questioned the strategy of giving tickets to defectors in what is seen as a pressure building tactic. Sena whose tally was 51.6% of BJP tally in 2014 has improved the ratio to 53.3% in 2019 elections. Fadnavis who is credited with bringing Sena on board before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and is believed to share an excellent rapport with Uddhav, now finds himself in a precarious position.

4. BJP couldn’t increase its tally despite Modi wave

BJP was hoping for a three-fourth majority for NDA. If not 3/4th, then a minimum two-third majority (192 seats). Supporters even hoped it could win a simple majority on its own or very close to majority helped by the roaring popularity of PM Modi. A nationalism fervor had gripped the country post abrogation of Article 370 and party leadership felt it could win big riding on central issues. However, it missed the trick! As Axis exit poll showed, this issue was topmost consideration for only 2% of voters in Maharashtra. What happened to all the internal polls which the party executed? Didn’t all of them highlight this?

The stature of Fadnavis, who was hailed as the future PM candidate by the media, has taken a beating. While there is no doubt about his administrative capabilities and astuteness, politics again showed that it is a great leveller…