With just one phase of polling remaining, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies do not seem to be in the driver’s seat in Maharashtra in the Lok Sabha polls. The BJP was expecting a wave in its favour in the state following the split in the Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) as well as the Maratha vote bank that has been controlling power in the state.

But the picture emerging after the four phases is that the BJP is not even close to repeating its performance in the last election.

A host of issues including price rise, Minimum Support Price (MSP), reservation in government jobs and fear of changing the Constitution of India, have damaged the electoral prospects of BJP-led Maha Yuti in the state. This is because the BJP has not convinced Dalits as to why it wants 400 plus seats in the Lok Sabha.

The ruling front and its star campaigners, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, appeared on the defensive on these issues that have been affecting voters. The two focussed on polarisation and ridiculing opponents especially Udhav Thackeray, Sharad Pawar and Rahul Gandhi during the election rallies.

At the ground level, Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena and Ajit Pawar’s NCP are not seen working in tandem as witnessed in Nashik, Dindori and Jalna seats. In Thane, the local BJP workers opposed till last minute leaving the seat to the Shinde’s Shiv Sena while in Aurangabad the BJP workers were blaming Amit Shah for leaving the seat to the Shinde’s Shiv Sena.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) workers were against the BJP allying with Ajit Pawar’s NCP and thus held the Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar responsible for it. In the Marathwada region which was part of the Hyderabad state before Independence, the Maratha quota movement leader Manoj Jarange Patil was seen as being soft on the Opposition parties.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s record number of election rallies in the state, and his visits in Maharashtra before the announcement of the poll schedule is a candid admission that the BJP lacks a pan-Maharashtra face. Besides, the BJP’s reliance on the factional leaders, Shinde and Pawar, showed its compulsions.

The Maha Yuti leaders are privately conceding that the sympathy factor favoured Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar in this election, where local issues remained relevant. Interestingly, the BJP leaders have stopped claiming to win 45 of the total 48 seats in the state, when the Opposition’s Maha Vikas Aghadi gave it a tough fight, and are now confident to get over 20 seats.

The decline in the voter turnout in Maharashtra is a no-confidence in political parties, which are ignoring the issues affecting the people. While the BJP focussed on infrastructure development, the Opposition put the government in the dock on MSP to food grains, price rises, and jobs.

Union ministers Nitin Gadkari (Nagpur), Narayan Rane (Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg), and Rausaheb Danve (Jalna) have to win this election. Ajit Pawar remained confined to Baramati as his only priority in this election was to ensure his wife Sunetra’s victory, and damage his uncle, mentor Sharad Pawar. The BJP wanted to break the Pawar family and it has succeeded irrespective of the poll outcome.

Interestingly, Narendra Modi’s meetings ensured the Opposition’s unity and added a spark in them. His attack on Sharad Pawar, calling him ‘Bhatakti Atma’ (Wandering Soul) has not gone down well among the people.