As Maharashtra braces for the polling storm in eight seats during the second phase on Friday, with another three phases of polling next month, the BJP and its allies are relying on PM Narendra Modi’s charisma to at least retain the last election’s tally. 

With breakaway factions of the Shiv Sena led by Eknath Shinde and the NCP led by Ajit Pawar failing to overshadow the formidable presence of Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar, the BJP-led alliance is banking on Modi’s star power to retain their stronghold. The desperation is palpable as candidates from all camps, including those from Shinde’s Sena and Ajit Pawar’s NCP, are eagerly seeking the endorsement of not just Modi, but also Home Minister Amit Shah.

Eye on all seats

BJP leaders in the State are aiming to retain all 41 seats that the party won along with the then undivided Shiv Sena in the 2019 elections. The BJP won 23 seats, and Shiv Sena won 18. The BJP leadership was hopeful that the split in the Shiv Sena and NCP would further strengthen the BJP’s position in the State, potentially allowing them to win at least 45 out of 48 Lok Sabha seats. However, according to party insiders, after the first phase of polling, the BJP leadership is feeling anxious about their initial plan, as Sharad Pawar, Uddhav Thackeray and the Congress have presented a substantial challenge.

With a revised strategy, the BJP and its allies are heavily relying on Modi’s campaign efforts. In the first phase, PM Modi held three rallies for five seats, and in the second phase, he addressed two rallies for eight seats. The BJP had hoped that former Congress leader Ashok Chavan, who joined the BJP, would help garner massive support for the party and its allies in Marathwada. However, PM Modi had to campaign even in Nanded, Chavan’s hometown and stronghold.

Mumbai Contest

In the upcoming third phase, seven constituencies in the sugar belt along with four others will go to the polls. Given Sharad Pawar’s influence in the region, the BJP leadership is eager to organise as many rallies as possible for PM Modi, including in the Baramati constituency where Ajit Pawar’s wife Sunetra is contesting against Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya.

The final phase of elections on May 20 will cover all constituencies in Mumbai, Thane and Kalyan. The stakes are particularly high for Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai, as this will be the first election after the vertical split in the Sena. The Lok Sabha results in Mumbai will not only determine the fate of the assembly results in the financial capital but also decide who will control the Mumbai Municipal Corporation. The BJP is eager to diminish Uddhav’s influence in Mumbai and sees PM Modi as the only key figure to challenge the Sena in the city.