If there is one political party on India’s political horizon that has grown constantly in terms of its number of elected representatives in the past 39 years especially in the state of Maharashtra, it is the Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP. The BJP in the current political scenario seems invincible and seems to be all set to return to power in the all important state of Maharashtra.
BJP National President Amit Shah is on a whirlwind tour of Maharashtra currently and is aggressively campaigning with as many as 19 election rallies by him in various regions of the state while Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to hold nine rallies from 16th October onwards. The party is focusing a lot on Maharashtra just like it did in Uttar Pradesh earlier because these two states between them send 128 members to the Lok Sabha with Maharashtras share being 48. But the important angle for the BJP is that it is focussed now on getting majority in the upper house of the parliament that is Rajya Sabha. This is likely to happen in the mid-term Rajya Sabha polls coming up around June-July 2020. The party is focussed fully on Maharashtra assembly polls because larger the number of seats it gets in Maharashtra, the easier it is for the party to score more in the Rajya Sabha polls next year.
BJP’s strategy over the past seven to ten years has been to make politics revolve around faces. It has adopted the Indira Gandhi brand of politics which takes the system towards a very presidential kind of polls. So the party launched its Prime Ministerial candidate Narndra Modi in its Goa convention in 2013 and similarly launched Devendra Fadnavis as BJP’s face in Maharashtra. This strategy of creating an acceptable face and pitching that face as the popular leader, has worked well for the party at both central as well as state levels. The Congress or Sharad Pawar’s NCP could not counter it properly in Maharashtra, they don’t have a “clean face” that becomes acceptable to the public and then moves on to first become “popular” and then becomes “indispensable”!
The second thing the BJP did in the last six years is that the party worked on engineering defections from the opposition. The biggest catch was leader of the opposition in state assembly Congressman Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil. He crossed over to the BJP just after Lok Sabha polls in which his son Sujay was rejected candidature by the Congress-NCP combine and the BJP wisely took full advantage of this by offering Sujay a BJP ticket and ensuring that he won Lok Sabha polls. The Vijaysinh Mohite Patil of Solapur, Narayan Rane from Konkan’s Sindhudurg and many others defected. So the BJP has succeeded in creating an impression that there is no opposition left in Maharashtra to fight them.
The third factor has been BJP’s strategic handling of its alliance partners. An aggressive Shiv Sena was tamed by Fadnavis very tactfully and brought down to just 124 seats in the seat sharing talks ahead of the assembly polls. All these factors helped the BJP grow in the state slowly but steadily and reach where it has come today.
Despite the setback to the economy, bad effects of demonetisation and drought in 2017 and 2018 in many parts of Maharashtra, if the BJP has managed to achieve a status where it looks like the favourite horse in a four horse race, its because of this three pronged strategy the party adopted in the last six seven years.