With exit polls unanimous in placing the BJP on top but inconsistent on whether it will have an absolute majority, the big question is who will ally with whom to bring or keep the BJP out of power.
The BJP believes it can sail through with its smaller partners the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, the RPI, the Shiv Sangram and the Rashtriya Samaj Party. If it falls short, a patch-up with the Shiv Sena is one possibility but by no means the only one, especially after the latter’s bitterness during the campaign. Even the NCP is seen by some as a possible new ally for the BJP. And some are even looking at an anti-BJP combine of the Congress and NCP with the Sena.
This is not counting the MNS, whose numbers can help lift any combination marginally short.
For the moment, though, the BJP is confident it need not look beyond its existing partners. “I am confident the BJP will get a majority on its own,” said state party president Devendra Fadnavis. “I believe the people have voted for change. Another factor that weighed on the minds of voters was to bring a BJP government in the state to ensure conformity with the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.”
If that does not work out, the possible formulas:
BJP + Sena
BJP leaders would not show their cards on that option if they fail to reach 145 out of 288. “During the campaign, we were not hostile to the Shiv Sena, whose campaign was against the BJP,” Fadnavis said.
RPI chief Ramdas Athawale, however, keeps that option open. “If there is a fractured mandate, the possibility of the BJP and the Sena joining hands cannot be ruled out. I will take the initiative to bring them together,” he said.
The Sena’s primary objective, however, is upstaging the BJP. “We are hopeful that we will beat the BJP in the numbers game,” a leader said. Although the Sena is not talking about reaching the halfway mark on its own, it does see a role for itself in a possible new combination.
The Sena’s Anant Geete is a union minister, and the party is in alliance with the BJP in the BMC, Mumbai’s municipal corporation.
Cong + NCP + Sena
Only if they add up, and then too with a lot of ifs and buts. One thing that binds the two former partners with the Sena is the desire to keep the BJP out. Rather than a three-way partnership, what is seen as a more natural alliance is Sena-NCP, with the Congress extending support from outside.
BJP + NCP
It is among the first possibilities that have been discussed all over the state ever since each party broke away from its partner. Will the BJP seek the support of the NCP if it falls short? The argument is that the BJP can then ensure that the Sena is kept out of power, getting even for the bitter campaign the latter ran against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.
“It is too early to make predictions. Let us wait for the results,” said state NCP president Sunil Tatkare. In local bodies, such as Pune, the NCP and the BJP have indeed joined hands.