NEW DELHI: The political battle for the throne of Maharashtra and Haryana has just got over, but even before the results have been announced, the battle of ‘Kaun Banegaa Mukhyamantri’ has already begun and the punters are busy. In Maharashtra, where the exit polls have predicted a saffron sweep though the BJP broke its decades-long partnership with the Shiv Sena, which wanted the catbird seat to go to its chief Uddhav Thackeray, jockeying for the top job has already begun.
Pankaja Munde, daughter of the late Gopinath Munde, who was the BJP’s CM-probable and an OBC leader, cast her hat in the ring on Friday. “People who wanted my father to be the Chief Minister are now demanding that I become the next CM,” said the 35-year-old, who said a famous surname should not hinder the prospects of a contender for the CM post.
In the BJP, there are at least three more contenders -- the 44-year-old state party chief, Devendra Fadnavis; Eknath Khadse and Vinod Tawde, third time Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly. Union minister Nitin Gadkari has denied that he is in the race for the top job. If the BJP gets a clear majority in both states,PM Narendra Modi will take the final call.
Meanwhile, Uddhav played the son-of-the-Marathi soil, saying that the alliance would’ve survived if he had accepted the BJP’s seat-sharing formula. “It is not important which party is in power. What is important is who is the Chief Minister,” he said during a rally in Mumbai. In the event of no one party getting a clear majority, the gap factor will come to play. If the gap between the seat position and the majority mark is large, and the BJP is propelled back to the Sena, the CM candidate would be one acceptable to both. Three BJP candidates for the CM post in the Maratha state are Brahmins, while Pankaja belongs to OBC.
The scenario will become multi-faced if the Gap Principle makes strange bedfellows. It could be a ruling combination of either the Sena plus Raj Thackeray’s MNS supported by the NCP, or the BJP replacing the Sena in the equation. In the latter case, Uddhav is the likeliest occupant of the CM’s bungalow ‘Varsha’ on Malabar Hill. In the even more unlikely scenario of the Congress getting enough numbers to form an alliance with the NCP and the MNS, current CM Prithviraj Chavan is unlikely to get his chair back as he is not acceptable to the other two parties.
In the NCP, Deputy CM and Sharad Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar’s chances also seem remote because of his reputation as a decisive leader who brooks no interference, even from the CM. However, the MNS will remain a marginal but crucial player in these scenarios with its small numbers proving to be a crucial pivot for any such alliance.
In Haryana, community politics is a determining factor in the choice of the CM. Jats and non-Jats hold the key. Exit polls show that Jats and Jat-based regional parties have thrown their weight behind the Chautalas’ INLD. However, the non-Jat, Dalit votes have come to the BJP, say statistics. If saffron wins the day, Haryana could be getting its second non-Jat PM after Bhajan Lal. In the BJP, the race is among Captain Abhimanyu, Ramvilas Sharma and Union Minister Rao Inderjeet Singh though the last one’s chances are debatable since Modi has so far shown no inclination to make changes at the Centre. Amit Shah had handpicked Abhimanyu Singh for the UP elections. If the INLD makes it alone, Om Prakash Chautala has vowed to take the CM’s oath from jail, though if convicted, his would be a short-lived tenure. However, since his other son Ajay Chautala is also implicated in the same corruption case, the foreign- educated, 26-year-old MP and Ajay’s son, Dushyant Chautala, is the likeliest party candidate.
If the BJP is forced to seek the INLD’s help, Haryana could get a Jat CM from. If the BJP and smaller parties like Kuleep Bishnoi’s Haryana Janhit Congress, Venod Shama’s Haryana Jan Chetna Party and Gopal Kanda’s Haryana Lokhit Party cobble together a partnership, the BJP could be taking the call. In the unlikely scenario of the Congress getting enough seats to form an alliance with Venod Sharma, Kanda and independents, then Hooda is set for a third term as Haryana’s Chief Minister.