For the past few days, many streets in various cities of Maharashtra have been flooded with hoardings carrying photos of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao with the slogan “Abki baar, Kisan Sarkar.”
KCR along with his cabinet now plans to visit the temple town of Pandharpur to offer prayers at Shri Vitthal Rukmini Mandir ahead of Ashadi Ekadashi on June 29.
At Pandharpur, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Bhagirath Bhalke will join Bharat Rashtriya Samiti leaders.
For the past few months, KCR is trying to expand his base in Maharashtra, which according to his party colleagues, is a gateway for him to be a national leader. However, KCR is not the first one to be making such attempts to make inroads in Maharashtra. and not everyone has been successful in such a mission.
KCR’s party is not only seeking re-election riding high on its welfare schemes and development works in the home state but also plans to expand its footprint by contesting in all the 288 assembly seats and 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra.
Back in 2007, Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) made similar attempts to expand the party’s base in the state. After the BSP won the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections and Mayawati became the chief minister that year, Mayawati wanted a strong presence in Maharashtra.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, the BSP tried hard but couldn’t win any seat in Maharashtra even as it bagged a significant amount of votes in the Vidarbha region, eating into the vote share of Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Similar attempts are being made by All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslemeen (AIMIM), led by Asaduddin Owaisi since 2014 and his had limited success so far. The party won two seats in 2014. In 2019, the AIMIM bagged two seats during assembly polls – from Dhule city and Malegaon central – while the party leader Imtiaz Jaleel, was elected to Lok Sabha during the same year from Aurangabad. Like in the case of Mayawati’s BSP, the AIMIM’s limited success helped Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as the Owaisi-led party eat into the opposition vote share.
Incidentally, AIMIM with its stronghold in Hyderabad has a base in Telangana, the state from where KCR is mainly involved in politics.
Similar attempts were made by Aam Admi Party (AAP) to expand its base in Maharashtra around three years ago. However, the AAP failed to make a mark in the 2019 Assembly elections, with candidates losing their deposits in all 24 seats that the party had contested.
In the recent past, KCR has held public rallies in areas, that mostly share borders with his state, ensured the induction of some leaders from Maharashtra into BRS, and even went on to open office in Nagpur. The party members have now been instructed to look for space in Pune, Mumbai, Sambhajinagar and other cities.
Recently, when NCP leader Ajit Pawar was asked about the expansion plan of KCR in Maharashtra, his reply was the party is unlikely to succeed to gain inroads in the state.
Pawar also cited Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav’s examples of how they failed to make a mark. “When Mulayam Singh and Mayavati were the Chief Ministers of UP, they tried to do the same thing, but did not receive much success,” said Pawar.
During his rallies in Maharashtra, KCR is constantly slamming BJP and their leaders at the centre and state, while remaining mum on Congress and NCP. At a rally in March this year, Telangana CM slammed BJP and Shiv Sena over farmers’ issues. The KCR wants farmers to be given ₹10,000 per acre for investment along with 24 hours free electricity in Maharashtra.
“In case of any unfortunate death of a farmer, he should be given insurance of ₹5 lakhs. Like Telangana, the government should buy the produce of farmers by opening centres here too,” KCR had said in a rally in March.
The KCR-led party may be confident in winning over farmers in Maharashtra, but it may not be easy since the politics here is already fragmented and there are multiple players intensely eying each other’s constituency.
Besides five major players including BJP, Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde), Congress, NCP, and Shiv Sena (UBT), multiple smaller political parties are eyeing their share in the vote base.
There is Maharashtra Navniman Sena, Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, Swabhimani Paksha, AIMIM, AAP, and Rajya Sabha MP Chhatrapati Sambhajiraje led Swarajya Paksha – all eyeing their respective political space.
Barring MNS, most of these smaller parties are likely to fight against BJP and add to an already crowded opposition space. So, the more the opposition space is divided, the better it is for BJP in Maharashtra. After all, the crowded opposition space means a reduction in the Maha Vikas Aghadi’s vote share.