Confident until days ago of executing a masterstroke of sorts by fielding the son of late BJP MP in the Palghar Lok Sabha bypoll, Shiv Sena leaders conceded on Thursday that there may have been chinks in its strategy ahead of its biggest face-off with its estranged ally BJP.
The Sena’s strategy of not paying much attention towards wooing the large north Indian voter population in the Nalasopara region, the smaller parties’ success in retaining their vote share and their inability to make any inroads for their tribal candidate in the urban segments of the constituency cost them the bypoll.
“We had very little time to campaign for the bypoll. So, we focused on those areas where we thought we stand a chance of getting a good response. So, we didn’t focus much on Vasai and Nalasopara, considering that our impact there may not be very significant,” said a Sena leader.
Privately, Sena leaders also admitted that the party remains ill-prepared to make a convincing appeal to north Indian voters in large numbers in areas around the Vasai and Nalasopara Assembly segments.
A Sena legislator said, however, that while the north Indian vote was a major factor, the party did well in the face of various factors. “In the last couple of years, we are getting north Indian votes too, but in small numbers. This was definitely a major factor in the bypoll. But we did well in other Assembly segments despite the fact that the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) controls three of the six Assembly segments.”
While the BJP has two legislators, the Sena has one in Palghar. “Besides, the BVA has more than 100 corporators and six to seven zilla parishad members who represent various pockets. And yet we finished at the number two position,” said the legislator.
While the Sena did not field a candidate in Palghar in the Lok Sabha elections of 2014, where the NDA candidate was from the BJP, the 2014 Assembly polls in Maharashtra were fought by the allies independently. A total of the votes polled in the six Assembly constituencies in the October 2014 elections shows while the BJP polled 2.08 lakh votes, the Sena polled 1.82 lakh votes and the BVA 3.17 lakh votes, winning three Assembly seats. Vivek Pandit, who backed the BJP in the bypoll, polled 65,395 votes as an Independent candidate in Vasai.
Also, the Sena’s strategy of banking on a sympathy wave for their candidate Shrinivas Wanaga — the death of his father Chintaman Wanaga of the BJP necessitated the bypoll — backfired on the party. While the Sena anticipated heavy voting in its support in the tribal belt of the constituency, this support was not sufficient to see its candidate through.
The Assembly segment-wise break-up for Thursday’s results showed that the Sena’s best performance was in the Palghar Assembly segment, where it was still behind the BJP. Vikramgad, a tribal dominated segment, gave the Sena its second best numbers, but here too, the BJP candidate was ahead of the Sena.
“In the six Assembly segments, we have only one legislator. Though we have organisational presence in five other Assembly segments, election preparations were never done in these segments. Secondly, apart from the north Indian vote factor, many people returned home without voting due to the EVMs malfunctioning in Vasai and Nalasopara. This had an impact for us,” said Neelam Gorhe, Sena spokesperson.
Gorhe added that factors such as alleged use of money and the alleged misuse of Chintaman Wanaga’s photo by the BJP worked against them. “Despite our complaints, the Election Com-mission took no action,” she said.