Why Maharashtra’s Verdict Will Be Unpredictable: NDTV’s Battleground

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Mumbai:

The battle for Maharashtra will not be simple and the state, with the largest number of seats after Uttar Pradesh, will definitely play a key role in who controls Delhi. In all the elections except the ones of 1977 and 1989, the party that has won more seats in Maharashtra went on to form the government at the Centre. Maharashtra has 48 seats and it is tough to say which way the state would go, concluded a panel of experts at NDTV this evening.

The factors that are expected to affect the election in the state are multiple including caste, the swing of the minority vote and the unrest among farmers, the panelists said. But at this point, it would also depend on what the BJP and the Opposition choose to focus on.

Psephologist and educationist Sandeep Shastri — one of the panelists on “Battleground” anchored by NDTV Editor-in-Chief Sanjay Pugalia — said: “If the campaign is focussed on the BJP, it might change certain things. And what the MVA will focus on — on Uddhav Thackeray or on Sharad Pawar — that would also be a deciding factor”.

Senior journalist Rohit Chandavarkar said Maharashtra is already a developed state when it comes to industry.

“So, jobs are not a big issue here. It might be an issue in UP but not here. Someone might have to leave their village but they will find a job 100 km away. Price rise is also not much of an issue here… Which is why caste is a big factor here, the Opposition is also using the unrest in farmers,” he said.

What is also expected to affect the election — in the state as well as the rest of the country — is the Narendra Modi factor.

Political strategist and commentator Amitabh Tiwari felt that it could be the only factor that can keep the UPA and the NDA apart. “In 2019, one out of three voters voted on the Modi factor. The difference between INDIA and NDA could just be this factor this year,” he said.

“A major change has happened in BJP strategy after 2019. The PM and the party have focussed on Modi guarantees. This time the votes on the Modi factor might increase,” added Mr Shastri.

“The image of Rahul Gandhi is improving but Prime Minister Modi is miles ahead in terms of leadership,” said scholar and social scientist, Dr Maneesha Priyam.

“Voting is an emotional decision and not a rational one. But no election can be called a done deal because of these three reasons: There are many late deciders in India, 25 per cent vote on the names of candidates, 69 per cent are floating voters and they are the kingmakers. Which is why in Maharashtra, it’s going to be unpredictable,” said Mr Tiwari.

The Maha Vikas Aghadi in Maharashtra is up against the combined strength of the BJP, the Shiv Sena faction of Eknath Sinde and the Ajit Pawar faction of the Nationalist Congress Party.

The alliance had been trying to draw in Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, which is known to have considerable support among Dalits. But the indecision in some key areas has upset Mr Ambedkar, who wants the MVA to make a decision.

The rough template for MVA seat sharing is that the Congress gets close to 18 of the state’s 48 seats, the Uddhav Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena 18-20 seats and the Sharad Pawar faction of the Nationalist Congress Party 8-10 seats. But the big fight is over nine seats including Kolhapur, Sangli, Hingoli, Jalna, Ramtek and a few seats in Mumbai, on which a decision is pending.

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