MUMBAI: What prevents the Shiv Sena from conquering Maharashtra on its own? Senior Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi raised the question at the party’s 52nd foundation day.
A look into how serious the Sena is on widening its voter base may provide an answer to the question. Maharashtra’s assemnly voting shows the Sena never got more than 16 per cent of votes till 2014. In 2009, allies Sena’s and BJP’s total 29.2 per cent vote share fell way short of the Congress-NCP combine’s over 38 per cent.
In the 2014 general elections, the saffron tally was a whopping 48 per cent while the Congress-NCP alliance managed 34 per cent. The Modi charisma increased BJP’s vote percentage to over 27.3 votes. The Sena tallied around 20.6 per cent votes. While the BJP’s voting percentage increased to 27.8 per cent in the assembly polls that year, the Sena’s fell to 19.3 per cent. The two had fought separately. Voting percentages of the Congress and the NCP remained almost same at around 17 and 18 per cent.
While BJP’s increased its tally by over 76 seats, the Sena saw only a gain of 18 seats.
Another major change in 2014 was that the Sena didn’t have spectacular results barring Konkan area which only has 15 assembly seats. In Mumbai, it got only 15 of the total 36 seats. As it opposes a separate Vidarbha, the Sena has little presence in 63 constituencies there.
The BJP dominates North Maharashtra, leaving only Marathwada and West Maharashtra for the Sena. In West Maharashtra, the Sena doesn’t have co-operatives like the Congress and the NCP, while the BJP proved itself in last four years in Marathwada. In the 288-member Assembly, a party or coalition having 130 MLAs generally rules Maharashtra. As Vidarbha and West Maharashtra contribute 130 seats, the going gets tough for the Sena.
At its outset, the Sena thrived on support of the workers in Mumbai. In the ‘80s, it embraced Hindutva and successfully pulled a large chunk of North Indians, who were traditionally Congress voters. Sena MP Sanjay Nirupam consciously tried to harness this vote bank. One of his ways was to organise ‘Chat poojas’. Sena leaders like Thane MLA Prakash Sarnaik regularly make such arrangements even today.
The case with South Indian or even Muslim voters in Mumbai is not much different. At the BDD chawl area of Worli, the Sena still holds public meetings in Telugu. Similarly, Sena leaders have built bonds with Muslims.
But, Sena spokesperson Harshal Pradhan makes no hiding of the party’s interests. “Locally, we are savior of Marathi Manoos and we play the same role for Hindus at national level. This is our official line. All other efforts are primarily local in nature.”