Exit polls show the party winning big in the state, a result that will be attributed to the extensive campaign by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who put in a staggering 27 rallies.
Media analysis of polls – which aggregates the results of four polls – shows the BJP winning 125 seats in the state; it needs 20 more to form the government. Its former ally, the Shiv Sena, with whom the BJP ended a 25-year collaboration just ahead of this election, gets 70 seats, according to the poll of polls.
Counting on “the Modi effect” that delivered the country to the BJP in May, the party did not declare a chief ministerial candidate; the PM asked voters to support him – a strategy that seems to have paid handsomely. The election in Maharashtra and Haryana is the first real test at the state level of Mr Modi’s popularity, since his enormous triumph in the national election. The performance (based on exit polls) will force opponents who deny “the Modi wave” to scramble for a defense.
For the last 15 years, Maharashtra has been governed by the Congress and Sharad Pawar’s NCP. This alliance had also ended ahead of the election. Both parties will be depleted to nearly half their current strength, according to the poll of polls.
In his election meetings, the PM made it a point to say he would not target the Shiv Sena despite the end to their partnership. Mr Modi said this was in recognition of the fact that this was the first election for the Sena after the death of founder Bal Thackeray, whose son Uddhav, now leads the party.
Though Uddhav, 54, has not shown Mr Modi the same deference – this morning, he was quoted in his party’s mouthpiece as saying “If a chai wallah can become PM, why can’t I?” – he has stopped short of a total break-up with the BJP. The Sena has not yet yanked its lone minister from Mr Modi’s government. Mr Thackeray had said he would decide on this after consultations with the PM, suggesting a reconciliation was not unimaginable despite his jabs at the BJP.
A possible reunion has been referred to more openly by BJP leaders like Nitin Gadkari who said they were open to a post-poll alliance.
Uddhav’s estranged cousin, Raj Thackeray, who heads the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena or MNS, has been reduced from 13 to 8 seats.