New Delhi: Maharashtra on Thursday looked set to have a BJP-Shiv Sena alliance government for another five years, even as results of the Assembly polls threw up what a former CM called an "interesting possibility" of the Sena, NCP and Congress aligning to upset the BJP's applecart.
The BJP ended with a tally of 105 in the 288-member Assembly. The Sena won on 56 seats, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on 54, while the Congress won 44 seats.
In the 2014 polls, the BJP had won 122 seats, the Sena 63, the Congress 42 and the NCP 41. The BJP and Sena had then contested separately. The Sena joined the BJP-led government over a month after it was formed.
Former CM Prithviraj Chavan said the results have thrown up an "interesting possibility", but stopped short of indicating if the Congress and NCP will align with the Sena - which he termed as the 'lesser evil' (compared to BJP) - to form the next government in Maharashtra.
In terms of the increase in number of seats compared to the 2014 polls, the Sharad Pawar-led NCP emerged as the largest gainer, while the BJP's tally took a considerable dip.
This, however, did not dampen the enthusiam of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who announced that the BJP-Sena combine will rule the state for another term.
Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, looking elated after the triumphant maiden electoral foray of his son Aaditya, reminded the BJP of promises not fulfilled.
Asked by reporters which party will get the chief minister's post, Thackeray said, "It is time to remind the BJP about the formula arrived at when BJP chief Amit Shah visited my home....we had decided on a fifty-fifty formula for the alliance."
"We agreed to contest fewer seats (than the BJP), but I cannot accommodate the BJP every time. I should allow my party to grow," Thackeray said. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said despite the BJP ending up winning fewer seats in 2019 compared to the 2014 Assembly polls, its "strike rate" is better this time.
He thanked the people of Maharashtra for giving a "clear and decisive mandate" to the BJP-led Mahayuti (grand alliance), adding his party and the Sena will go by what was "pre-decided" between them on sharing of power. Fadnavis said the BJP contested 260 seats in 2014 and won 122. "This time, we contested 150 seats and our allies 14 and as per trends, we are likely to win 105 seats. Our strike rate was 47 per cent in 2014, now it is 70 per cent," he said.
He said the BJP secured 28 per cent votes in 2014 and polled around 26 per cent votes across 164 seats this time. NCP's Shriniwas Patil, ex-bureaucrat and former governor of Sikkim, became a 'giant killer' after he trounced Udayanraje Bhosale in the Satara Lok Sabha bypoll, which was also held on October 21 along with the state Assembly polls.
Bhosale had quit the NCP and joined the BJP ahead of the bypoll. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had addressed a poll campaign rally at Satara.
Prominent winners in the Assembly elections include Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray, and Leader of Opposition in Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde who trounced estranged cousin and BJP minister Pankaja Munde in a keenly-contested poll battle.
Five other ministers in the Fadnavis-led government were also trailing as per trends available so far. Former chief ministers Ashok Chavan and Prithviraj Chavan and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar were other prominent winners.
Among the turncoats, 11 of those who joined Shiv Sena and eight who joined the BJP on the eve of the elections, were defeated.
Reacting to the trends and results, NCP chief Sharad Pawar said the message was that people did not like "the arrogance of power".
The people, however, have asked his party to remain in opposition, Pawar said, adding that it will not try to form the next government in Maharashtra.
"People have not accepted the talk of 220 seats (out of 288). The NCP accepts people's mandate humbly... The election result shows people did not like the arrogance of power," Pawar said.
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said his party and the BJP will form the next government in Maharashtra, and stressed the two parties will stick to the pre-decided "50-50" sharing formula.
Raut ruled out possibility of the Shiv Sena joining hands with the opposition parties to form the new government. Asked about the possibility of the Shiv Sena embracing the NCP and Congress to form government, Raut said, "No, we fought the polls in alliance with the BJP. We will go ahead with the tie-up."
Counting of votes for Maharashtra Assembly polls and Satara Lok Sabha bypoll began at 8 am at 269 locations in the state, poll officials said.
Exit polls had predicted a comfortable win for the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena alliance government in the state. The polling held on Monday saw a voter turnout of 61.13 per cent, a dip from the 63.20 per cent recorded in 2014, the official said.
(With agency inputs)