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Difficult Options

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In hind sight, the strategic mistake that BJP made in Maharashtra was to go in for seat- sharing with the Shiv Sena before the 2019 assembly polls. It did well in the seats it contested, while the Sena lost considerable ground. This indicates that, comparatively, the Sena does not have as much of the people’s mandate. Earlier, in the 2014 elections, the BJP had gone it alone and clearly outstripped the Sena, despite the fact that the latter had contested a larger number of seats. As such, it became clear who had the mandate. This time around, the Congress and NCP decided to renew their alliance, which is what forced the BJP to tie-up with the Shiv Sena as a counter to keep the votes in the Hindutva fold. Quite obviously, then, the voters provided the alliance a majority considering it to be one political force. As such, neither the BJP nor the Sena has the mandate to align with any other party. That BJP got the larger number of seats also indicates which party is expected to lead the coalition. On its part, the Sena is asking for an equal share in the chief ministership as supposedly ‘promised’, which has obviously not gone down well with the BJP. Hence, the ongoing deadlock that could lead to imposition of President’s rule. Or, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis could seek a trust vote from the assembly and see how the other parties react. Any other kind of coalition would be greatly unstable and require far greater compromises from the Shiv Sena. Fresh elections could result and there is no saying how the voter treats the Sena then. The BJP may be punished, but the Sena could almost get wiped out. Much of this is already clear to those involved in the present stand-off. Neither the BJP nor the Sena is prepared to blink. Maharashtra stands at a crossroads and the credibility of the Hindutva forces is in question. The Congress and the NCP stand to benefit, although their MLAs would be most unhappy with fresh elections. This could lead to enough abstentions in the trust vote so as to give BJP a shaky majority. Even so, the prospects are not good. The only real solution is for Sena to take its pound of flesh but concede the CM’s post to the BJP. The BJP can ask for nothing less as it has many more pots on the boil than just Maharashtra and cannot be seen to lose face.