WITH TALKS on pre-poll alliances between smaller outfits and mainstream parties either deadlocked or making no headway, smaller political parties in Maharashtra have started drawing up their own strategies against the Congress-NCP and BJP-Shiv Sena for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The parties include the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM), Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Left outfits and Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS).
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, all the smaller parties together polled a vote share of 17.21 per cent. Although the smaller outfits cannot on their own throw a challenge to the mainstream parties, their vote share counts in determining the electoral outcome of the candidates in key constituencies. BBM president Prakash Ambedkar said, “The process of dialogue with the Congress-NCP for a pre-poll alliance for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections have come to a standstill. It is heading nowhere.”
Explaining the deadlock, he said, “Apart from taking the initiative to approach them, we had also submitted a proposal to the Congress almost 25 days ago. But we have not received any response from them.”
A senior Congress functionary, while confirming the developments, said, “MPCC president Ashok Chavan and senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar held talks with Ambedkar. But the Congress has put a condition that Ambedkar should first break its alliance with the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM). Unless he severs ties with the AIMIM, the Congress cannot consider his party for an alliance.”
Ambedkar has not only rejected the demand but also decided to put up candidates in at least 20 Lok Sabha seats across Maharashtra. The BBM-AIMIM is also roping in local groups and communities to consolidate its base.
The MNS, led by Raj Thackeray, which was banking on the 2019 Lok Sabha polls to gain a foothold in at least 10-15 seats in the Assembly elections, is heading nowhere. An MNS source said, “We will focus on a few Lok Sabha seats in Mumbai, Thane, Nashik and Pune.”
A highly placed source in the NCP said, “The NCP was keen on getting Raj Thackeray on board. At least he could play the role of spoiler against the BJP and Shiv Sena in Mumbai and Thane. However, the Congress has categorically ruled out a pre-poll alliance. The Congress fears MNS’s anti-migrant politics would affect the larger electoral prospects of the Congress in north Indian states, namely Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.” The NCP, which is having an alliance with the Congress, believes any attempt to have a covert alliance with the MNS may not work.
The SSS led by Raju Shetti has also placed a proposal with the Congress-NCP for the Lok Sabha elections. However, the Congress-NCP has made it clear that the SSS will have to accept only one Lok Sabha seat. Shetti, a sitting MP representing Hatchkanangali in Kolhapur in western Maharashtra, indicated that he was pressing for at least two Lok Sabha seats.
Though the CPI and CPI (M) are ideologically keen on an anti-BJP alliance, the Congress-NCP’s inability to accommodate their demands have left them disenchanted.
The Left parties are asking for at least two Lok Sabha seats in Palghar and Dindori. A state CPM leader said, “Our effort is to bring all anti-BJP secular forces together. But the Congress-NCP should also consider our electoral concerns. Otherwise, we will contest on our own against the BJP-Sena and Congress-NCP in the state.