The issue of which is the ‘real’ Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Maharashtra is settled after the Lok Sabha election results. The results have made things ‘doodh ka doodh, paani ka paani’ level clear.

This mandate has exposed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its top leadership wanting to crush the regional parties who are challenging their power and authority. It is equally an eye opener for the Election Commission of India and the judiciary for a number of reasons.

Maharashtra has been the toughest state for Prime Minister Narendra Modi because of the regional parties which have refused to become his ‘bhakts’ and toe his line blindly. In fact, they played the game on their terms, and thus ensured coalition governments in the state since 1995 till today, without a break.

Uddhav Thackeray, Sharad Pawar were a stumbling block in Modi's plan to make this premier state as his political laboratory.

Modi thought that the BJP would get more than 40 of the total 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra this time, following the splits and desertions in the Shiv Sena and the NCP. He was sure that the mild-mannered Uddhav is not like Bal Thackeray, the founder of the Shiv Sena.

Modi assumed that Uddhav would collapse after the revolt in his party, and that Sharad Pawar would become irrelevant after the revolt by his nephew Ajit Pawar. Ajit had been groomed by the senior Pawar and given him a free hand in the NCP. Besides, Sharad Pawar’s advanced age was a factor too.

However, Modi miscalculated and misread Maharashtra completely. His strategy has not only boomeranged on him, but it also revived four regional parties instead of two.

While Uddhav’s Shiv Sena and Sharad Pawar’s NCP are openly challenging the BJP in Maharashtra, Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena and Ajit Pawar’s NCP are also not allowing the BJP to be a pan Maharashtra party. They are eating into the BJP’s space in the state while allying with it.

Modi made the rebel Eknath Shinde the Chief Minister. who had the backing of 40 defector MLAs. The BJP, which has more than 100 legislators in the state Assembly, played the role of ‘king maker’ with a calculation that a ‘lightweight’ leader like Shinde would demolish Uddhav’s Shiv Sena.

Shinde’s Shiv Sena won seven Lok Sabha seats in the state while the BJP got merely nine. The Shinde Sena is now seen as an equal partner of the BJP.

The BJP strategists have realised that strengthening the Shinde’s Sena was not a good strategy, but now they are helpless. The Shinde Sena and the Ajit NCP are now pressing for 80 to 90 seats each in the upcoming Maharashtra Assembly polls.

This means they want to field candidates in 180 to 200 Assembly seats. They have already voiced their demand before the beginning of seat sharing talks with the BJP. The strength of Maharashtra assembly is 288.

Now, neither the BJP nor the Shinde Sena, nor Ajit NCP can publically question the ‘originality’ of the Shiv Sena led by Uddhav and the NCP founded by Sharad Pawar. If they do so during the campaign for the state Assembly polls expected in October-November this year, they will be ridiculed.

This is because the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) comprising the Congress, the Shiv Sena-Uddhav and the NCP-Sharad won 30 of the total 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra.

In this election Uddhav’s Shiv Sena won nine seats (a 16.72 vote share) while Shinde’s Shiv Sena won seven seats (a 12.95 vote share).

Uddhav has also shown his grip over Mumbai by winning three of the total four seats it contested under the MVA. On the other hand, Shinde’s Shiv Sena got only one seat from Mumbai, that is Mumbai North West which its candidate Ravindra Dattaram Waikar won by less than 50 votes against Uddhav’s nominee.

The BJP which is considered to be the mastermind behind the splits in the Shiv Sena and Sharad Pawar’s NCP, won only one seat-Mumbai North. It had fought two more seats, Mumbai North East and Mumbai North Central, but was defeated by Uddhav’s Shiv Sena, and the Congress, respectively.

The message is loud and clear that the BJP and CM Shinde’s Shiv Sena together, cannot stop Uddhav Thckeray in Maharashtra’s capital. And that is exactly the reason why the Shinde government and the ruling Mahayuti were delaying to hold the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections.

Sharad Pawar’s NCP won eight of the total ten Lok Sabha seats it had contested, including the prestigious Baramati defeating deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar’s wife Sunetra.

It has defeated two Union Ministers, Kapil Patil from Bhiwandi and Dr Bharati Pawar from Dindori, besides the BJP heavyweight and daughter of late Gopinath Munde Pankaja from Beed, and Dr Sujay Vikhe from Ahmednagar.

Dr Sujay is the son of Maharashtra BJP leader and minister Raddhakrishna Vikhe Patil and was a member of the 17th Lok Sabha.

Sharad Pawar’s NCP won seats from Marathwada (Beed-Bajrang Sonwane ), Vidarbha ( Wardha - Amar Kale), North Maharashtra (Dindori - Bhaskar Bhagare), Bhiwandi (Suresh alias Balya Mama Mhatre), Western Maharashtra (Baramati - Supriya Sule, Ahmednagar - Nilesh Lanke, Madha - Dhairyasheel Mohite Patil, Shirur - Dr Amol Kolhe).

Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena won three seats from the Marathwada region (Hingoli - Nagesh Patil Aasthikar, Parbhani - Sanjay alias Bandu Jadhav, Osmanabad - Omprakash alias Pavan Raje Nimbalkar), three seats in Mumbai (Mumbai North East - Sanjay Dina Patil, Mumbai South - Arvind Sawant and Mumbai South Central - Anil Desai).

It won one seat each from North Maharashtra (Nashik - Rajabhau Waje), Western Maharashtra (Shirdi - Bhausaheb Wakchaure) and Vidarbha (Yavatmal-Washim - Sanjay Deshmukh).

The victory of Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena and Sharad Pawar’s NCP is significant. Their party’s were split, election symbols were snatched and given to the rival parties, they were dethroned from power at the instance of powerful leaders in the Central government.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Union Home Minister Amit Shah were not only the star campaigners of the BJP and the ruling front, but they were the master strategists. They selected the candidates of the Mahayuti with the sole objective to demolish Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray.

They calculated that the split, desertions in the Shiv Sena, the NCP will help the BJP’s achieve its objective to ‘capture’ Maharashtra. They were relying on the abilities of Eknath Shinde and Ajit Pawar, but were proven wrong.

Interestingly, the Congress party emerged stronger in this battle and won 13 seats despite contesting a lesser number of seats than Uddhav’s Shiv Sena. An Independent candidate backed by the local Congress leaders, declared his support to the Congress.

In the 2019 general election, the Congress won only one seat and that too from Chandrapur in the Vidarbha region. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the Congress won merely two seats, Nanded and Hingoli, from the Marathwada region.

But this time the Congress emerged victorious in Amravati (Balwant Wankhede), Bhandara-Gondia (Dr Prakash Padole), Chandrapur (Pratibha Dhanorkar), Gadchiroli-Chimur (Dr Kirsan Namdeo), Ramtek (Shyamkumar Daulat Barve) all from Vidarbha region.

It also won three seats from the Marathwada region: Jalna (Kalyan Kale), Latur (Dr Shivaji Bandappa Kalge) and Nanded (Vasantrao Chavan). It won two seats from western Maharashtra: Solapur (Praniti Sushilkumar Shinde), Kolhapur (Chhatrapati Shahu Shahaji).

It also won two from north Maharashtra: Dhule (Shobha Bachhav), Nandurbar (Gowaal Kagada Padavi and won the Mumbai North Central (Varsha Gaikawad). And in Sangli, Vishal Pakashbapu Patil, the grandson of the Congress veteran late Vasantdada Patil, won as an Independent. .

The Congress’ vote share in the Lok Sabha polls in Maharashtra is 16.92 percent. The BJP contested the highest number of seats but won just nine, and that too in alliance with Shinde’s Sena and Ajit’s NCP.

It won merely two seats from the Vidarbha region: Akola (Anup Dhotre) and Nagpur (Nitin Gadkari), and two from western Maharashtra: Pune (Murlidhar Mohol) and Satara (Shrimant Chh. Udyanraje Bhonsle).

The party survived because of its victory in Jalgaon (Smita Wagh), Raver (Raksha Khadse), Mumbai North (Piyush Goyal ), Palghar (Dr Hemant Vishnu Savara) and Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg (Narayan Rane).

The BJP leaders in the state are now saying that the MVA won because of the minorities. However, they are tightlipped on why the majority(Hindu) community did not vote for Modi. Why did its votes get split ?

Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena won seven seats due to the BJP. His candidates were lightweight and lacklustre. It won Aurangabad (Sandipan Bhumare), Buldhana (Prataprao Jadhav), Hatkanangale (Dhairyashil Mane), Kalyan (Dr Shriknt Shinde, son of CM Eknath Shinde), Thane (Naresh Mhaske ), Maval (Shrirang Barane) and Mumbai North West (Ravindra Waikar).

Barring Buldhana and Kalyan, the Shinde Sena’s candidates would not have won on their own.

Ajit Pawar’s NCP won one seat and that is Raigad (Sunil Tatkare ).

Narendra Modi’s election meetings, his comments on the opponents and Amit Shah’s strategy in the selection of candidates helped the opposition.

Modi’s extensive tours proved counterproductive, and did not help the Mahayuti candidates win seats. In fact, Maharashtra has shown once again that Narendra Modi is not a vote catcher.

If Narendra Modi’s comments on Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray generated sympathy for the MVA, the floating voters and the middle class rejected the BJP’s strategy of splitting the Opposition parties, recruiting people with corruption charges, encouraging defections for power.

Modi first attacked Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray and then suggested they work with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). This had not gone down well in the state.

Modi’s comment on Sharad Pawar’s “advancing age, his inability to keep the family intact”, advising him to retire and calling him a “‘bhatakti aatma’ (wandering soul )” worked against the BJP.

The PM’s attack on Uddhav’s Shiv Sena, calling it a ‘nakali’ (fake) party, backfired and revived the fighting spirit of the Shiv Sena workers.

Team Narendra Modi-Amit Shah first tried to discredit Thackeray's Shiv Sena and Sharad Pawar’s NCP. Then they suggested the two leaders join the BJP-led NDA. This was seen as the duo trying to fool the people.

During his election meetings Modi took a dig at the NCP founder Sharad Pawar and Shiv Sena-UBT chief Uddhav Thackeray ‘advising’ them to join Ajit Pawar and Eknath Shinde factions. Modi claimed that the “fake NCP and Shiv Sena made up their minds to merge with the Congress after the Lok Sabha election results were declared on June 4”.

Modi had addressed a record number of meetings in Maharashtra which perhaps no Prime Minister had done so far. This had shown his distrust of the state’s BJP leadership and the leaders of the ruling front. His two remarks calling Sharad Pawar a ‘bhatakti aatma’ (wandering soul ) and the Shiv Sena ‘nakli’ (fake) changed the voters’ mood.

Modi and Shah also failed in fielding the right candidates, and adopted the wrong election strategy. They ignored the fact that they are being seen as ‘anti Maharashtra’ for a number of reasons, especially after taking away developmental projects to Gujarat.

Modi's slogan “abki baar, chaarso paar'' slogan worked against the Mahayuti in this election, Eknath Shinde said after the results. His party leaders are privately blaming the BJP for leaving only 15 seats to them and accused the saffron party of not campaigning for them.

Ajit Pawar’s NCP won only one seat. The BJP hardliners and the Sangh Parivar insiders questioned why Modi and Shah had allied with the Ajit’s NCP.

Why the ruling Mahayuti comprising the BJP,the Shinde Sena and Ajit Pawar’s NCP won only 17 seats, is still a question that awaits an answer. The Election Commission of India, Speaker of the Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha may have declared the defectors as the ‘real’ Shiv Sena and the NCP but the people have rejected them.

The BJP’s Union Minister Raosaheb Danve who has been winning the Lok Sabha elections from Jalna for five terms consecutively was defeated by the Congress’s Kalyan Kale, who is much junior to him in politics. Danve was also the Maharashtra BJP president for some time.

Another senior Maharashtra minister of the BJP, Sudhir Mungantiwar was defeated in Chandrapur by the Congress’s Pratibha Dhanorkar who had contested for the first time.

Vidarbha used to be the BJP’s stronghold in the state which is dominated by the OBCs. But the party won just two seats: Nagpur (Union Minister Nitin Gadkari) and Akola (Anup Dhotre). It drew a blank in the Marathwada region, the land of BJP leaders Pramod Mahajan and Gopinath Munde, now deceased.

If the Maratha reservation issue had gone against the BJP in this election, it had helped the Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena to some extent. However, Ajit Pawar’s NCP failed to get out of Modi’s ‘charisma’, Shah’s tactics and the BJP’s strong organisational network.

After the results, Sharad Pawar took a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that wherever he held roadshows and rallies, the MVA registered victories in those places in the Lok Sabha polls.

“Wherever the Prime Minister's roadshow and rally took place, we won. That is why I consider it my duty to thank the prime minister… We thank PM Narendra Modi for making the political atmosphere conducive for the MVA,” Sharad Pawar said during his interaction with the media.

Maharashtra was one of the three states that dealt the biggest blow to the BJP and the NDA in the general elections 2024, the remaining two being Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

This was also the first election Maharashtra has seen after the splits in the Shiv Sena and the NCP, long battles in the courts, the Election Commission of India and the state Assembly.

Modi’s visits to Maharashtra had increased after the splits in the Shiv Sena and the NCP, and change of power in the state. After the poll schedule for the Lok Sabha was announced, Modi held multiple public meetings, and a road show in as many as 18 Lok Sabha seats of Maharashtra. The NDA failed to win in 15 of those seats.

In the middle of the election, the NDA realised that it was going to be defeated badly in the state. In fact, Chhagan Bhujbal, the senior leader of Ajit Pawr’s NCP, had said that there's a sympathy wave in favour of Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar in the state.

Bhujbal in an interview with a national tv channel said, “I believe there is a sympathy wave… the way Uddhav Thackeray's Shiv Sena split and a faction of the NCP switched sides. This is showing in their rallies”.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP won 23 out of 25 seats it contested in alliance with the undivided Shiv Sena.

Currently, there are two Shiv Senas: one led by Uddhav Thackeray and the other led by Eknath Shinde. Similarly, there are also two NCPs, one led by Sharad Pawar, and the other led by Ajit Pawar. The state government has an alliance of BJP-Shiv Sena-Eknath Shinde and Ajit Pawar’s NCP .

According to Bhujbal, in previous Lok Sabha elections, the BJP fought in an alliance with the undivided Shiv Sena and the parties had won in 23 and 18 constituencies respectively.

“It doesn't seem like they (Shiv Sena-UBT and NCP-Sharad Pawar) are failing the way they did in 2014 and 2019," Bhujbal added.