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Action Plan 2024

BJP in election mode as it draws up strategy for Maharashtra

Print edition : Sep 01, 2022 T+T-

BJP in election mode as it draws up strategy for Maharashtra

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis hold the tricolour during a ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ event in Mumbai in August 2022.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis hold the tricolour during a ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ event in Mumbai in August 2022. | Photo Credit: -

Having paralysed the Maha Vikas Aghadi, it is now going all out to put the State in its kitty.

That the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is going full steam ahead for 2024 is clear from its tactics and strategies in Maharashtra. The party has assumed full control over Maharashtra once again. In the partnership with the Eknath Shinde-led rebel faction of the Shiv Sena, there is no doubt that the BJP is in the driving seat. All that remains for the party to do is to rout the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA). That process started in 2019 when Uddhav Thackeray ended the Shiv Sena’s three-decade old partnership with the BJP. Since then, the BJP has tried in various ways to undermine the MVA. Success came with the break-up of the Sena and the June 30 swearing-in of Eknath Shinde as Chief Minister.

Now that the BJP has paralysed the MVA, it is training its guns on individuals whom it sees as a threat. Three of its top leaders are already in Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail. Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik, both of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), were arrested before the Sena rebellion in what many believe were manipulations by the Centre. Sanjay Raut of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena was arrested soon after the new government came to power. Now the BJP has its eye on the biggest fish: NCP chief Sharad Pawar and his family.

Highlights
  • That the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is going full steam ahead for 2024 is clear from its tactics and strategies in Maharashtra
  • The BJP has its eye on the biggest fish: NCP chief Sharad Pawar and his family
  • Shatpratishat Bhajpa or ‘100 per cent BJP’ is the party’s rallying cry
  • Maharashtra sends the second largest number of members to the Lok Sabha after Uttar Pradesh, and this makes the State crucial to the BJP’s plans
  • BJP is now targeting several prestigious seats of MVA leaders, such as Mumbai South, Mumbai Northwest, Thane, Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg, Osmanabad and Parbhani
  • The State BJP’s plans to ride down all opposition mirrors what is happening at the Centre, where the BJP aims to decimate all opposition 

The BJP has tried hard to win Pawar’s fortress of Baramati but without success. As part of the BJP’s Pravas or journey campaign meant to strengthen its organisational structure nationwide, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will visit Baramati in September. In 2019, Union Home Minister Amit Shah campaigned in Baramati for Kanchan Kul, who was fighting against Pawar’s daughter, Supriya Sule. At the time, Shah had urged the BJP cadre to “hit at the roots”. Kul lost the election but the audaciousness of the BJP put the Pawar clan on their guard.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde (right) and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis address a press conference before the commencement of the Monsoon session of the State Assembly in August 2022.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde (right) and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis address a press conference before the commencement of the Monsoon session of the State Assembly in August 2022. | Photo Credit: -

The Baramati parliamentary seat consists of six Assembly seats. Of these, Khadakwasla and Daund are already with the BJP and the party is confident of winning Purandar and Indapur. With four seats likely to go saffron, the Pawars need to guard their bastion. There is also the possibility of Ajit Pawar, who is the guardian minister of Pune, being replaced by the BJP’s Chandrakant Patil, who is known to be a strong opponent of the Pawar clan.

‘100 per cent BJP’

In 2024 both Assembly and parliamentary elections will be held in Maharashtra. The BJP aims to win 200-plus seats in the 288-member Assembly and 45 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats. Shatpratishat Bhajpa or ‘100 per cent BJP’ is the party’s rallying cry. Interestingly, the BJP’s battle preparations don’t even make a pretence of including its partner, the Shinde-led rebel faction of the Sena.

Also read:BJP’s toppling game

Maharashtra sends the second largest number of members to the Lok Sabha after Uttar Pradesh, and this makes the State crucial to the BJP’s pan-India plans. Problem is, the party still lacks enough appeal in the State to make it on its own. Taking on the Sena as a partner is not an ideological decision but a political necessity. The results of the 2014 and 2019 elections bear this out: both times the party won 23 Lok Sabha seats. In the 2014 Assembly election, the BJP won 133 seats but this dropped to 105 in 2019. 

Meaningful tours

A senior BJP leader from Maharashtra said the party “was preparing to fight 2024 on [its] own but COVID made [them] rethink [their] plans.” Former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s capable handling of the pandemic saw his ratings rise sharply. Wary of this, the BJP rethought its plans and launched Operation Lotus that unseated the MVA. Forty of the 55 Sena MLAs rebelled and 12 of the Sena’s 18 Lok Sabha members went over to the Shinde camp.

Sharad Pawar during a press conference in New Delhi in June 2022.
Sharad Pawar during a press conference in New Delhi in June 2022. | Photo Credit: -

Not content with this, the BJP is now targeting several prestigious seats of MVA leaders, such as Mumbai South, Mumbai Northwest, Thane, Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg, Osmanabad and Parbhani. Also on its agenda are seats such as Baramati, Raigad, Satara, Shirur and the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s Aurangabad. 

This is the reason why Union Ministers are touring important constituencies. While Sitharaman was assigned Baramati, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur was given Kalyan to tour not because it belongs to the opposition—it is actually held by Shinde’s son Shrikant—but to flaunt the fact that Shinde is backed by the BJP and the Rs.1,000 crore township being planned there is part of the Centre’s munificence.

The State BJP’s plans to ride down all opposition mirrors what is happening at the Centre, where the BJP aims to decimate all opposition. In its immediate sights are the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the municipal corporations of Aurangabad and Kalyan-Dombivli, all of which have been dominated by the Thackeray-led Sena. This has been kept in mind while appointing the ministerial Cabinet. For instance, Ashish Shelar of the BJP was not given a Cabinet post, much to everyone’s surprise. When Shelar was the head of the Mumbai BJP in 2017, he had secured 82 of the city’s 227 wards for the BJP in the BMC elections. The Sena had won 84. In 2019, Shelar started exposing alleged irregularities in the BMC as a means of hitting out at Thackeray, who had just severed ties with the BJP. The BJP has set a target of winning 134 wards this time. Shelar has once again been appointed president of the BJP’s Mumbai unit.

Preferential treatment

For other areas, too, the BJP has chosen Ministers keeping in mind their constituencies and origins. Thus three of the new Ministers are from Aurangabad—Atul Save of the BJP, and Abdur Sattar and Sandipan Bhumare of the Shinde faction. In north Maharashtra, leaders like Girish Mahajan, Gulabrao Patil and Dadasaheb Bhuse have been inducted to strengthen the BJP and edge out the NCP in the civic councils.

“Maharashtra has the second largest number of Lok Sabha seats after UP, and this makes the State crucial to the BJP’s pan-India plans.”

The preferential treatment for newcomers is grating for BJP old-timers. For instance, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, who defected to the BJP from the Congress in 2019, getting the prime portfolio of Revenue has upset sections of the cadre, who have been told to work for the larger goal of 2024. Devendra Fadnavis’ sacrifice in accepting Shinde as Chief Minister is being held out as a shining example of party loyalty. To maintain peace, the State unit has pointed out that the BJP high command in Delhi is doing the same thing. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Cabinet saw the induction of four Ministers from Maharashtra last year; three of them—Narayan Rane, Kapil Patil and Bharati Pawar—are newcomers to the BJP.

Also read: What next for Shiv Sena?

As expected, the number of ministerial hopefuls outnumbered the posts. Of the 18 sworn in, there were nine each from the Shinde faction and the BJP. The maximum number of Ministers Maharashtra can have is 43, including the Chief Minister and his deputy. The 23 seats lying vacant are expected to be filled up during the monsoon session of the Assembly, which began on August 17 and goes on till August 28.

Aware that the BJP is out to decimate the MVA, Pawar has been pressing his partners to take heart from the BJP’s ouster in Bihar and persist in the partnership. The NCP chief said the current government can be defeated in 2024 only by strengthening the MVA partnership.