If one considers the landslide victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls earlier this year, it won’t be an exaggeration to say that while the BJP and its partners appear comfortable and in control, Congress and its allies might be staring at a battle for survival in the upcoming assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana.
In Maharashtra, much like a reflection of most of the north Indian states, the BJP-Shiv Sena combine nearly wiped out the Congress and its allies, which included the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), during the general elections. The BJP-Sena won 41 of the total 48 Lok Sabha, whereas only five went to Congress-NCP. An Independent and Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) secured the remaining two seats.
However, there’s one factor that could have played an important role in the drubbing that the Congress-NCP combine received in the state.
Prakash Ambedkar’s newly formed Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA), which fought its first election in an alliance with Owaisi’s AIMIM, made an impressive first impression and secured about 7 per cent of the total votes in the state. These votes, experts argue, may have made a dent in the vote share of the Congress and its allies.
A closer look at the results shows that Congress and its partners may have possibly won seven extra Parliamentary seats in total, had there been no contest from the VBA as the latter secured more votes than the winning margin of the NDA candidate against Congress and its allies. These seats were: Buldhana, Parbhani, Gadchiroli-Chimur, Sangli, Hatkanangle, Nanded and Solapur. In Akola, from where Prakash Ambedkar himself contested, VBA stood second.
Extrapolating these results to their respective assembly segments, News18.com found that if the voting behaviour remains similar in the assembly elections this month, Congress and allies could win at least 49 seats in total. However, it could also lose out on 26 more where anti-NDA votes may get split between them and the VBA. These seats include Shahada, Khamgaon, Akola West, Wani, Washim, Pusad, Karad South, Phaltan, Majalgaon, and Hadapsar among others.
A majority of these assembly seats/segments are those where the opposition alliance lost by small margins and where the VBA secured significant number of votes. For instance, in the Igatpuri assembly segment, NCP candidate Sameer Magan Bhujbal trailed the Shiv Sena candidate Godse Hemant Tukaram by 5,452 votes, while VBA’s Pavan Chandrakant Pawar got over 15 thousand votes. Similarly, in Barshi assembly segment of the Osmanabad Parliamentary constituency, Sena had about 900 more votes than the NCP candidate whereas VBA garnered over 10 thousand votes in the same segment.
Interestingly, of the 26 assembly segments where VBA could hurt the opposition alliance, Congress had a chance in just 10 and the remaining were where NCP was in the fray. This is in line with the overall performance of the two parties in the general elections where NCP won four of the five seats won by the alliance.
On the contrary, a few seats could also slip out of the hands of NDA if we go by the same methodology. Although that is less likely as it is believed that it's only the traditional Congress and NCP voters who have shifted to the VBA.
In 2014, carrying on with the momentum of the ‘Modi wave’ that swept the country, BJP had won 122 assembly seats in the 288-seat strong house, whereas Shiv Sena, which fought alone but later joined the BJP to form the government, got 63 seats. On the other hand, Congress and NCP, which also contested separately, secured 42 and 41 seats, respectively.
Given the Lok Sabha performance of the ruling coalition earlier this year, whether the 2014 pattern is going to repeat itself in the state elections or are we looking at a last minute twist in the tale is something that'll be closely watched.
The Assembly polls in Maharashtra and Haryana are scheduled to take place on October 21 and counting of votes will be held on October 24.