Lok Sabha 2019: Spotlight on Mumbai and Thane

Lok sabha 2019 is now less than a year away. It is building towards a battle royale between the two contesting sides. On one hand is the BJP, led by Modi nationally and in power on it’s own strength or as part of the alliance in many of the states. On the other hand is the loosely built mahagatbandhan led by no specific party but with many leaders who desire to be Prime minister including Rahul Gandhi, who is playing “Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa” on the question of whether he wants to be the prime minister. Since the battle of 2019 will determine the fate of our country for the next 5 years, it is a significant event. It decides our direction till 2024, including the 75th year of our independence in 2022.

The main question is whether Narendra Modi can be the prime minister again in 2019. The consensus on Twitter seems to be that BJP needs to have upwards of 240 – 245 seats on it’s own supported by diminishing set of allies with 30-40 seats nationally to form the government with Modi as the head. Otherwise there is a feeling that the 160 seat club within the BJP might have a chance at getting the prime minister’s post. Many experts feel that BJP might face a reduction in it’s 2014 seat tally of 282 (now 272 odd), primarily in Northern and North Western states like UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Delhi etc. While it’s too early to assume that this maybe the reality, there is bound to be some reduction due to anti-incumbency at the MP level or due to SP-BSP alliance in UP.

Since BJP had already maxed out in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Delhi, Rajasthan etc., there is no further gains to be had but rather chances of some seat losses in these states. BJP is already looking to expand it’s geographical and electoral footprint by trying to win seats in West Bengal, Odisha and more seats in North East along with it’s allies. Along with sunrise states mentioned above, BJP has a chance to maintain or indeed surpass it’s seat tally in Maharashtra.

BJP had fought LS 2014 in alliance with Shiv Sena (Sena) and small allies like RPI (A), Swabhimani sangathana (led by Raju Shetty) and Rasthriya Samaj Paksha (led by Mahadev Jankar) etc. BJP had fought 24 and won 23 seats. Sena fought 22 and won 18 seats. Raju Shetty had retained his Hatkanangale seat (includes assembly segments of Kolhapur and Sangli district). NDA had an impressive 42 out of 48 seats. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) won 4 seats in it’s bastion of Western Maharashtra and Cong clinched 2 seats in Marathwada.

Much has changed since then in terms of political alliances and strength of parties. BJP and Sena fought separately in Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha 2014 election and bagged 122 and 63 seats respectively. They collaborated to run an alliance govt for nearly 4 years now, despite the bickering and Sena’s heartburn. Cong and NCP finished at the end in the race with 42 and 41 seats respectively. After the sudden death of Gopinathji Munde in the interim of the LS and VS polls, Devendra Fadnavis was given the chance to be chief minister and he has performed extremely well to take pole position in Maharashtra politics . Shiv Sena wanted to use their 63 seats to arm-twist the BJP, but the old wily fox Sharad Pawar declared unconditional support to BJP before the final results of vidhan sabha were declared. Shiv Sena’s heartburn has only increased thereafter. BJP then increased it’s strength across Maharashtra in local body polls (municipalities incl Jalgaon and Sangli recently), nagar parishads, zilla parishads, panchayats etc). While BJP and Sena relations have furthered deteriorated over the last 4 years, Cong and NCP are back to forming an alliance for 2019. Raju Shetty who started his politics against Sharad Pawar is now at his feet for his survival.

It is clear that Sena will fight the LS 2019 election seperately thus creating an advantage to Congress + NCP alliance on paper. While it is a challenge for BJP, this gives a chance to BJP to maintain or surpass their present LS tally of 23 in the state. This is thus a chance at increasing their footprint across the state and consolidate the gains of the Vidhan Sabha 2014 election. Cong and NCP alliance will surely gain from their rock bottom performance of a combined 6 seats in LS 2014. BJP can gain upto 30 seats in a very optimistic situation. Worse case seems to 20 seats for BJP, which is just 4 less than the 2014 tally. Hence, the upside for BJP is much more. Congress and NCP are not a pan Maharashtra alliance on the ground, as there are approx 20 seats where either of the Congress or the NCP is absent or weak. Hence the party fighting that seat is on it’s own stead. Congress is absent in Thane district (3 seats) and parts of North Maharashtra and Konkan (with the exit of Narayan Rane). NCP is absent in Mumbai (6 seats) and many parts of Vidarbha. Thus the Congress-NCP alliance is effectively only on 28-30 odd seats. The UPA alliance can win on 15-20 seats at the max, that too if Modi does not create another electoral tsunami closer to March 2019.

Also Shiv Sena will act as the spoiler for both sides. They will cut BJP votes in some seats (especially urban), but more importantly they can act as the magnet for anti BJP or anti Modi votes. This can hurt the Congress or the NCP. It is natural for the Shiv Sena to fight seperately to save it’s space in Maharashtra politics. In a small span of 5 years, the rise of Modi on the national stage has reversed the roles of BJP and Shiv Sena. BJP has become the elder brother in the NDA coalition in Maharashtra and it is eating up Sena votes by the day. The Shiv Sena though runs the risk of losing a majority of the currently held LS seats. They might be reduced to under 5 seats in 2019. Nor can Shiv Sena ally with Congress in 2019, nor can Congress align with them. But in future, we cannot rule out a BJP vs Cong vs NCP + Sena fight. Congress could be relegated to a third position in such a scenario.

I would focus on the 10 seats of Mumbai and Thane in a series of blog posts looking towards the LS 2019. Will try to make an in-depth look in the factors that affect these 10 seats, all of which are urbanized / semi urbanized. Each seat has it’s own dynamic and ultra local factors that influence them. Also candidates on some of the seats (where Sena won) are not known, this can also be a pivotal factor. A significant factor is that as opposed to Modi being the BJP face in 2014, this time the BJP would fight with the faces of PM Narendra Modi and CM Devendra Fadnavis, especially on these 10 seats. Lets see how the “King of Men” and “King of Gods” work in tandem.

I would also discuss some potential candidate names for seats that don’t have a sitting BJP MP. Would invite feedback for these blog posts. Would try to post one blog on this topic a week.

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