Decoding how Maharashtra results could go on June 4

Ahead of results, this analysis examines the factors that could have influenced voter opinion in each region of Maharashtra...
Devendra Fadnavis, Uddhav Thackeray, Amit Shah and Aditya Thackeray in happier times. Who will have the last laugh on June4? (File | PTI)
Devendra Fadnavis, Uddhav Thackeray, Amit Shah and Aditya Thackeray in happier times. Who will have the last laugh on June4? (File | PTI)

Maharashtra, the second-largest state in the Lok Sabha elections with 48 seats, plays a crucial role not only for the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) but also for the Opposition's INDIA bloc in challenging Narendra Modi's bid for a historic third term as Prime Minister of India.

The entire country is closely watching the developments and the fiercely contested Lok Sabha battle in the land of the medieval Maratha king, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, known for his guerrilla warfare tactics. Maharashtra's diverse regions resemble Europe's variety in dialects and food culture, yet historically, the state has decisively chosen one side in Lok Sabha elections.

In the 2019 general elections, 60.95% (5,40,54,245) of eligible voters cast their votes. In 2024, this increased slightly to 61.33% (5,70,06,778), marking a 0.33% increase (29,52,533), according to the Election Commission. During the five-phase 2024 polls, Gadchiroli-Chimur led with a 71.88% turnout, followed by Kolhapur at 71.59%, Hatkanangale at 71.11%, Beed at 70.92%, and Nandurbar at 70.68%. The lowest turnout was 50.06% in the Mumbai South

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the NDA secured 41 seats, with 23 for BJP and 18 for the united Shiv Sena, while the Opposition managed only six seats (four for NCP, two for Congress, and one for Swabhimani Shetkari Sangathan). The NDA's vote share was over 47%, while the Opposition had only 34%.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the NDA retained its 41 seats, with BJP and Shiv Sena maintaining their respective tallies and a combined vote share of over 50%. The Opposition again performed poorly, winning only five seats (four for NCP, one for Congress) with a 32% vote share. The Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) won one seat in Aurangabad.

The BJP focused its campaign on nationalist issues like the abolition of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, the construction of the Ram temple, and the image of India under PM Modi. The Opposition highlighted inflation, unemployment, and alleged hidden agendas of the BJP-RSS, promising financial support for women, stipends for unemployed youths, loan waivers for farmers, and legal guarantees for minimum support prices (MSP) for crops.

The INDIA bloc, meanwhile, aimed to localise the elections by adopting a local and state-centric name for its alliance: the Maha Vikas Aghadi, comprising the Congress, Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT), and Sharad Pawar-led NCP (SP). Uddhav Thackeray not only contested the highest number of Lok Sabha seats within the MVA, with 21, but also emerged as a star campaigner and a key factor in this election.

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Ahead of results, this analysis examines the factors that could have influenced voter opinion in each region of Maharashtra during this Lok Sabha election:

Vidarbha

Vidarbha, once a Congress stronghold, saw BJP dominance in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, losing only one seat (Chandrapur) in 2019. This region played a significant role in BJP's state assembly victories, aiding Devendra Fadnavis's rise as Chief Minister. BJP leaders emphasised alleged neglect by previous Congress-NCP governments, contrasting it with development initiatives under Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and DCM Fadnavis.

The 2019 state assembly elections offered hope to Congress, which won half of its total seats in Vidarbha. Congress aimed to consolidate its traditional DMK (Dalit, Muslim, and Kunbi) vote bank against BJP's development-focused Hindutva politics.

The contest between Nitin Gadkari and Congress MLA Vikas Thakare in Nagpur is particularly notable. Gadkari's previous confidence contrasts with his extensive campaigning this time, as anticipated DMK consolidations threaten his victory margin.

Marathwada

Marathwada, the epicenter of the Maratha agitation, witnessed significant unrest due to police actions against Maratha quota leader Manoj Jarange Patil's protest. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP and its ally won all eight seats in this region. However, the Maratha community's anger and Jarange Patil's indirect appeal to defeat BJP candidates make retaining this tally challenging.

Key battles include former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan in Nanded, Pankaja Munde in Beed, and Raosaheb Danave in Jalna, all facing unprecedented opposition.

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Western Maharashtra

Western Maharashtra, known as the sugar and cooperative belt, has been a stronghold of former Union Minister Sharad Pawar. BJP has tried to reduce Pawar's influence by inducting prominent Maratha families and leveraging DCM Ajit Pawar's support. However, this strategy backfired, garnering sympathy for Sharad Pawar and revitalizing his network.

This resurgence is likely to benefit Pawar in constituencies like Madha, Solapur, Satara, and Baramati, with significant interest in the contest between Sharad Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule and DCM Ajit Pawar's spouse Sunetra Pawar.

Konkan

Konkan, the coastal region dominated by Shiv Sena, faces a major test following the party's split. The contest between Uddhav Thackeray's faction and CM Eknath Shinde's faction will determine the real leader of Shiv Sena. The battle between BJP Minister Narayan Rane and Shiv Sena (UBT) candidate Vinayak Raut in Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg is particularly significant.

North Maharashtra

North Maharashtra, which includes Asia's largest onion market in Lasalgaon, has been a BJP stronghold in recent elections. However, the central government's export policies have angered onion farmers, potentially affecting BJP's prospects. The contest in the Dindori constituency, where BJP Minister of State Bharati Pawar faces a tough challenge, is noteworthy.

Mumbai and adjoining regions

Mumbai and its adjoining regions, with ten Lok Sabha seats, saw a high-profile campaign finale with PM Modi's rally at Shivaji Park. BJP aimed to polarise Hindu voters, while Uddhav Thackeray focused on a Marathi versus Gujarati narrative.

The Opposition attempted to capitalise on the "MaMu factor" (Marathi and Muslim votes) and targetted some votes from North and South Indian communities. The distribution of tickets by the Opposition and the choice of candidates by the NDA, particularly Shinde's Sena, could significantly impact the election outcome.

The Uddhav factor

Jaideo Dole, a retired professor and political observer, noted that Uddhav Thackeray's transformation into a liberal, secular, and progressive leader (who is seen to be like Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal and Stalin in Tamil Nadu) has garnered support from Dalit and Muslim voters.

"This shift away from traditional anti-Muslim and anti-Dalit politics may redefine regional and national politics in this election," Professor Dole says.

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