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BJP still has upper hand versus Sena

‘Big Brother’ posts better strike rate; partners hint at extending alliance for Assembly polls

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena alliance will likely carry forward gains from the Lok Sabha elections into the Assembly elections in October 2019. The two partners, after sweeping most of Maharashtra’s 48 seats, hinted at taking their long-standing partnership into the future hours after the results came in on Thursday. The final tally also showed the two parties may have retained their social bases in rural Maharastra as the farmers as well as the Maratha community supported the election campaign by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray, political experts said.

Addressing a press conference on Thursday evening, Mr. Fadnavis dubbed the alliance ‘invincible’, while Mr. Thackeray said the two partners would continue to work towards a common programme, including the construction of the Ram temple, among other shared goals. “This (BJP-Sena) alliance is now invincible, and we are likely to jointly fight all elections in the future. The glitches in the partnership are ironed out, and we will continue working even though the seat-sharing formula may vary,” he said, while greeting Mr. Thackeray at the Sena’s party head office in Dadar. Mr. Thackeray credited the victory to all the winning candidates while taking a jibe at the campaigns of cousin Raj and Congress president Rahul Gandhi. “If Mr. Gandhi has won from one of the two constituencies, in which one did the EVM malfunction?” he asked. “Light the firecrackers (Lavre te fatake),” he said, in response to Raj Thackeray’s ‘Lavre toh video’ campaign against the two alliance partners.

The final tally showed the BJP secured 23 of the 25 seats it contested and the Sena managed victory in 18 of the 23 seats it fought. The new metric, the senior leadership of the two parties conceded, would help the BJP retain its dominance in the relationship. “Up until the 2014 elections, the Sena had retained an upper hand with better strike rates in the 2004 and 2009 elections. However, the dynamics of the relationship were flipped in 2014 as a Narendra Modi wave swept the country,” said a senior BJP leader. Better victory margins then had helped the party retain the crucial Home and Urban Development departments, he said.

The BJP’s big brother status is secure after the party posted a winning strike rate of 92% as opposed to the Sena’s 78.2%. However, the two parties witnessed a dip in their strike rate as opposed to 2014, with the Sena’s strike margin dipping by 11.8% and the BJP’s by 3.5%. The BJP’s strike rate in 2014, with wins in 23 of the 24 seats contested, was 95.8% as opposed to the Sena’s 90% with wins in 18 of the 20 seats contested. Mr. Fadnavis, however, clarified there was no hierarchy in the relationship. “Let me put it this way: I am a younger brother to Uddhavji and Modiji has already called Uddhavji his young brother. That is all there is to it,” he said.

Most exit polls had suggested a minimum of 21 seats for the Sena, but political scientists said the party’s performance as opposed to the BJP’s this time will give Mr. Fadnavis the brownie points. A India TV-CNX poll had even suggested a higher vote share for the BJP at 25.18% as opposed to the Sena’s 17.71% (the 2019 figures were yet to be released by the Election Commission of India). The CM had taken the lead in securing the alliance after some initial discomfort shown by the party high command, including President Amit Shah. “There is no doubt this electoral alliance has performed stupendously despite drought and an anti-incumbency sentiment. The credit for this goes to Mr. Fadnavis, who was keen on the alliance despite discomfort from his seniors. The BJP’s performance will force the Sena to take a back seat, not allowing it to throw tantrums in future,” said Surendra Jondhale, political analyst and former professor of political science. “It also proves the results are a stamp on Mr. Modi’s leadership. This dents the Sena’s status as an equal partner.”

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