This Lok Sabha election will be a ‘do-or-die’ battle for the Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. This is because its outcome would decide his political fate, and the fate of his Shiv Sena.

If he gets a lesser number of seats than Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena, then Thackeray will emerge as a natural leader, and get a political advantage in the Maharashtra Assembly polls expected to be held in October-November 2024.

But before that, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will have to decide on Eknath Shinde’s continuation as Chief Minister, and review its alliance with his party.

Shinde wants to re-nominate all his sitting Lok Sabha members but the BJP, a senior partner in the ruling front known as Maha Yuti in Maharashtra, is unwilling to oblige him on the grounds of the findings of its pre-poll surveys. This has not only delayed the nominations but also strained the relations between the BJP and the Shiv Sena-Shinde.

Shinde announced eight candidates a few days back, but the BJP wants him to replace some of them. The BJP is opposing the candidature of sitting MPs Bhavna Gawali (Yavatmal-Washim), Dhairyasheel Maane (Hatkanangale) and Hemant Patil (Hingoli). Besides this, it also wants Thane, the CM’s home turf and Nashik seats.

Shinde got the CM’s post after convincing the BJP’s Central leadership that this strategy would wipe out the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena faction. After the successful coup, Shinde was said to have told the BJP high command that accepting the Deputy CM’s post would not have achieved the political results. This was because Uddhav Thackeray would have got the sympathy of the Shiv Sainiks and the people.

After the split, the Election Commission and the Maharashtra assembly Speaker recognised Eknath Shinde’s faction as the real Shiv Sena. Even the Supreme Court judgement maintained the status quo.

However, all these developments have not finished Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena. He is drawing crowds and attacking Eknath Shinde, and the BJP, from the front.

The CM cannot afford to be seen as submissive and as someone who cannot protect his loyalists. These loyalists remained with him in the rebellion against Uddhav Thackeray and camped with Eknath Shinde in Guwahati, Panaji.

On the other hand, the BJP does not want Shinde to be stronger at its cost. This is because it will help Shinde to strengthen his position in the government, and the organisation, and increase his bargaining power at the time of seat-sharing negotiations for the state Assembly polls.

Shinde is simultaneously facing challenges from both Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena and the BJP. Besides, the Dy. CM Ajit Pawar who is heading his faction of the NCP, has also never hidden his ambition to be CM.

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, who is expected to be accommodated in the ruling front, will also eat into the political space of Shinde’s Shiv Sena in Mumbai, Thane, Pune and Nashik.