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Politics 29-Jun, 2024

Maha Verdict: Why Did BJP Face a Crushing Defeat in Maharashtra

By: Rishav Khetan

Maha Verdict: Why Did BJP Face a Crushing Defeat in Maharashtra

Source- PTI | PM Modi held roadshow in Mumbai ahead of Lok Sabha election in Mumbai

The people of Maharashtra have decisively voted in favour of the opposition alliance Maha Vikash Agadhi (MVA) bolstered by significant support from Dalits, Tribals, and Muslims. Data shows that the MVA led in a majority of the 29 assembly segments reserved for Scheduled Castes, 24 segments for Scheduled Tribes, and over 30 Muslim-dominated segments.

The second state that handed the Bharatiya Janata Party its biggest setback is Maharashtra. While approaching the 2024 Lok Sabha election, experts and pollsters predicted a tight contest in Maharashtra, which could make or break the BJP’s fortunes in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The party, which secured 23 seats in the state in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, has seen its tally reduced to nine. The BJP's allies in the Mahayuti alliance, including the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena and Ajit Pawar's faction of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), also performed poorly. The Shiv Sena faction managed only seven seats, while the NCP faction secured just one, leaving the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) with a total of 17 seats out of 48 in the state. This marks a significant decline from 2014, when the NDA, with the unified Shiv Sena as an ally, won 43 seats.

The people of Maharashtra have decisively voted in favour of the opposition alliance Maha Vikash Agadhi (MVA). The alliance secured 30 seats, Congress - 13, Shiv Sena (UBT) - 9, NCP (SP) - 8. Several factors contributed to the MVA's success, including a sympathy wave for Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar, a resurgence of Maharashtra sub-nationalism or "Marathi Asmita," and strategic caste and religious polarization.

Politics in Maharashtra shifted dramatically after the BJP formed the government with the support of the Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena, making Shinde the Chief Minister. Ajit Pawar also split from his uncle Sharad Pawar's NCP, taking majority of MPs and MLAs with him. However, the Lok Sabha election results indicate that voters favored the original leaders of the Sena and NCP, from under whose noses their parties were seen as “stolen”. Both Shiv Sena (UBT) and NCP(SP) won more seats than the splinter factions.

Despite the overall victory of the opposition alliance, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena lost some strongholds in the Konkan region, such as Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg, Raigad, and Maval. The party also lost the Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar seat to the Shinde-led faction. In head-to-head contests, the Shiv Sena (UBT) won 6 out of 13 seats against the Shinde faction, while the latter won 7. In the two seats contested between Ajit Pawar's NCP and Sharad Pawar's NCP (SP), the latter emerged victorious in both the seats, including in the prestigious Baramati seat where Shard Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule defeated Ajit Pawar’s wife Sunetra Pawar.

The MVA's success was bolstered by significant support from Dalits, Tribals, and Muslims. In Maharashtra, these groups overwhelmingly voted for the opposition alliance, with Muslims notably backing the Shiv Sena (UBT), historically their adversary, to defeat the BJP-led coalition. Data shows that the MVA led in most of the 29 assembly segments reserved for Scheduled Castes, 24 segments for Scheduled Tribes, and over 30 Muslim-dominated segments. For instance, in Dhule Lok Sabha constituency BJP lost by 3,831 votes, despite leading in 5 out of 6 assembly segments, because the Congress secured a huge lead in Malegaon Central, where it polled 1.99 lakhs votes but BJP could only poll 4542 votes. In Mankhurd, 75% of votes went to the Sena (UBT) candidate Sanjay Patil. In Mumbai South, the Sena (UBT) candidate Arvind Sawant secured a significant lead in the Muslim-dominated Byculla, where it got 86,883 votes and 40,817 to the Shinde Sena’s Yamini Jadhav. The community also ensured that their votes did not split to AIMIM or Vanchit Bahujan Agadi (VBA).

A survey conducted by CSDS-Lokniti revealed that 55% of Adivasis and 47% of Dalits voted for the MVA. Dalits, making up 10.5% of Maharashtra's population, represent a significant vote bank, with the state being seen as the "karmabhoomi" of Dr B.R. Ambedkar. The BJP's performance suffered notably in Vidarbha, Marathwada, and Mumbai, where Dalits and Muslims form a substantial part of the electorate.

Finally, the party had to pay the price of poor management of Maratha quota, which was stirred by activist Manoj Jarange Patil. The Mahayuti failed to win any of the eight seats in the Marathawada region. The aggressive campaign by activist Manoj Jarange Patil forced the BJP to bring in a 10% quota for the Marathas; eventually, the delay was considered by many as a tactic to consolidate OBC support behind it in a case of reverse polarisation. In 2019, the BJP saw sweeping wins in the Beed, Jalna, Nanded, and Latur seats. In 2024, even BJP national secretary Pankaja Munde, the daughter of one of the BJP’s tallest OBC leaders, the late Gopinath Munde, lost to NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar) candidate Bajrang Sonwane in Beed.

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