Congress plans grand alliance in Maharashtra

Mumbai: A potential grand alliance of political parties in Maharashtra to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could gather as much as 55% vote share, a senior Congress party leader who attended the party’s 9 June strategy meeting said.

Recent signs of a thaw in the frosty ties between the BJP and Shiv Sena had brought in an urgency to stitch together such an alliance, the leader said on condition of anonymity.

The Congress is inspired by its own Karnataka effort where it struck a deft post-poll alliance with the Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S); in Maharashtra, the plan is to form the alliance ahead of next year’s general elections and assembly elections.

Maharashtra Congress president and former chief minister Ashok Chavan is gung-ho on the idea. “Like in Karnataka where all like-minded parties came together to stop the BJP, like-minded parties should come together in Maharashtra as well,” he said after Saturday’s five-hour meeting of top Congress leaders. Chavan said his party would take the lead in crafting such a “grand alliance in Maharashtra” and present a report on this to party president Rahul Gandhi when he visits the city on 12 June.

“All like-minded parties in Maharashtra should come together to defeat the communal and casteist agenda of the BJP. Karnataka has shown us that this is possible. The Congress party is keen to take the initiative in this direction,” Chavan said.

The party leader quoted earlier said the Congress has been in favour of such a coalition for quite some time. “But it has to be taken up on priority after the Karnataka experiment when Rahulji himself took the call to reach out to JD(S). The ice has been broken now,” he said.

“It is our sense that the Shiv Sena, for all its fake bravado, would go with BJP. We also need to come together to replicate the Karnataka model in a better way because this would be a pre-poll grand alliance,” this Congress leader said.

The Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and smaller opposition parties in Maharashtra have demonstrated even before the Karnataka example that they can work together. In fact, an informal-anti-BJP alliance started emerging in 2017 itself when all opposition parties joined for a ‘Sangharsha Yatra’ to demand a farm loan waiver. The Congress-NCP also fought recent Lok Sabha by-polls and legislative council polls in Maharashtra together.

The Congress and NCP independently fought the 2014 assembly elections. Of the total 288 seats in Maharashtra, the Congress contested 287 and won a mere 42 with 18.1% vote share. The NCP contested 278, won 41, and a 17.96% vote share.

Contesting 260 seats, the BJP won 122 with a vote share of 31.15%. The Shiv Sena fought 282 seats and won 63 with a 19.8% vote share.

The only other party to get a double-digit vote share in 2014 was the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) which contested only 24 seats and won 2 with 13.16% votes.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Samajwadi Party (SP) won one seat each getting 5.76% and 2.54% votes respectively. The BSP did not win a single seat but got 2.33% votes.livemint

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