Zee Media Bureau/Ritesh K Srivastava
With almost all leading exit polls predicting a major win for the BJP-Shiv Sena combine, the ruling Congress party looks set to be completely wiped out in Maharashtra. If the poll projections are to be believed then the BJP is most likely to win at least 34 seats in the western state and the number could even rise to 38.
The ruling Congress, on the other hand, is expected to win just 13 seats. Besides the projections about the ruling Congress, the exit polls have thrown a big surprise that the MNS led by Raj Thackeray is expected to win only one seat. The exit polls have further predicted that the Congress-NCP combine is only likely to win between 11--15 seats.
Though Maharashtra Congress leaders have refused to accept the exit poll predictions for the state and believe that the party will repeat its 2009 Lok Sabha election performance this time also, concerns over party`s future have grown since the state has 48 Lok Sabha seats after Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats.
It seems that riding at the back of the Narendra Modi wave, the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance has, to a big extent, countered the challenge from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), especially in Mumbai and other urban centres, besides the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance.
If the exit poll predictions come true, it will be clear that anti-incumbency, the allegations of corruption – ticket to Adarsh scam tainted Ashok Chavan, lack of credible plan to prevent farmer suicides have taken a heavy toll on the UPA constituents - the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Interestingly, the Congress, which had won 17 seats and the NCP eight seats in 2009, have exuded confidence that they will retain the power in the state this time as well.
It seems that the Congress` strategy of giving tickets to a number of new names like Sanhay Deotale and Rajendra Gavit has backfired. More than Congress, it is the NCP, which has reasons to worry as the party is facing the big test to stay relevant.
The Lok Sabha results hold significance for the NCP as the party is set for a internal churning given the announcement by party supremo Sharad Pawar that he will pay way for his daughter Supriya Sule in Baramati with he himself taking the Rajya Sabha route to the Parliament. Pawar wants his daughter to be his political hire amid stiff challenge from his nephew Ajit.
Going by the rants of their leaders, the Shiv Sena-BJP appeared to have smelt power and formed `Maha Yuti` (mega alliance) with Ramdas Athawale`s Republican Party of India, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) and Rashtriya Samaj Party (RSP). The formidable alliance gained more power after Vinayak Mete`s Shiv Sangram party joined it after severing sides from the UPA.
The `Maha Yuti` alliance has probably helped the NDA improve its performance in western Maharashtra and Konkan, Vidarbha and Marathwada. The BJP also appears to have handled the family spat between the Thackeray brothers in the Mumbai region. Despite his grand standing, Uddhav Thackeray is said to have benefited more from `Modi wave` to help his party come triumphant in tough seats.
Caste calculations have also played a big factor in the victory of the Sena-BJP alliance. The two parties are predicted to have garnered a major chunk of Maratha and the Dalit votes. The two communities supported Congress-NCP in 2009 and the Sena-BJP aimed at breaking the winning combination with the entry of Shiv Sangram and RPI.