After deliberations lasting almost 10 months, Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Maharashtra have finally formed an alliance for the general elections 2019. Some key smaller parties like Swabhimani Shetkari Sangathana, Bahujan Vikash Aghadi, Peasant and Workers Party, factions of Republican group leaders, like Jogendra Kawade and RG Gavai, independent leader Ravi Rana have also joined hands with the opposition ranks. “To stop communal forces from getting power again is our aim to form this alliance,” the leaders said at a press conference held in Mumbai on March 23.
Maharashtra is second largest state in country in terms of Lok Sabha seats. Uttar Pradesh has 80 seats and Maharashtra 48. So, it is important for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as well as the Opposition to win more and more seats in the state. As per the seat-sharing formula, Congress will contest on 26 seats whereas, NCP will contest on 22 seats. The smaller parties are adjusted from their quota.
The Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana will get two seats each from both Congress and NCP quota. Bahujan Vikash Aghadi will get one seat from Congress quota. Ravi Rana will get one seat from NCP quota. PWP and Republican groups are assured of seats in the Assembly elections as well as sharing of power if this alliance voted to power in state. The Maharashtra Assembly elections will be held in October this year.
Overall, Congress will contest 24 seats, NCP 20, Raju Shetti’s SSS gets two seats, BVA gets one and Ravi Rana one. Interestingly, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has formed an alliance with BVA for one seat. It will support the BVA on the Palghar seat. But CPI (M) is also contesting another LS seat of Dindori, which comes under NCP quota.
On paper, this alliance looks stronger. Because adding the three crucial smaller parties like SSS, PWP and BVA will help Congress and NCP on almost 14 seats. In addition, the ground is very positive for the Opposition parties as issues like agricultural distress and unemployment are important.
But the challenges are not easy. Both the Congress and NCP will have to transfer their votes to each other as well as to smaller parties in all constituencies. This is the major task for all. Another major challenge is to bring urban and semi-urban voters to them. Maharashtra is 45% urban. Six seats in Mumbai, two in Thane, one in Pune and one in Nagpur are total urban. There are about 16 semi-urban seats apart from these. So, to woo urban voters on these 26 seats will be a tough task before Congress and NCP.
The perception game also matters. The state has seen a heavy exodus from Congress and NCP in the past one month. Opposition leader’s son Sujay Vikhe, former deputy chief minister Vijaysinh Mohite Patil’s son, Ranjitsinh, and many others have joined BJP. This has created a perception that BJP has managed things well and is returning to power. And perception does matter in electioneering as voters across regions and age-income groups do tend to get influenced by it. This is one challenge that the Opposition alliance in Maharashtra needs to overcome.
Meanwhile, the Congress candidate at Ratnagiri Sindhudurga Lok Sabha constituency has played his part by creating a hurdle. Navinchandra Bandivadekar was seen supporting an activist of Hindu Janjaghruti Samiti, a controversial Right-wing organisation. Many progressive and secular activists in Maharashtra have slammed Congress for this. But the state Congress is still pushing his candidature. If this continues, then Congress may face trouble across Maharashtra.