Of Friends and Foes

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Wily alliances have generally been the backbone of state and national politics in India. For the first time in  decades, we are seeing a single party (the BJP) contest and win elections on its own. However, it’s not just a resurgent BJP that is breaking ties with its allies. A battered INC too chose to go the Maharashtra elections on its own. How much of a difference did the lack of alliances make? And whom did it hurt the most?

In today’s post, I look at close contests in the Maharashtra state elections and the difference an alliance could have made to these contests. A close contest is defined as a victory margin of 5000 votes or less. I looked at the winning vote margin and tallied the combined votes of the losing alliance to see if this would have made a difference.


The INC/NCP combine took the biggest hit. An alliance between the two could have salvaged over 30% of these close contests. And sometimes by a huge margin. For eg: In Melghat, the BJP won with 57,ooo votes. The NCP came in second with 55,000 votes and the INC with 48,500 votes. A combined fight would easily have taken this seat. Even in seats that technically qualify as ‘no difference’, the NCP-INC combine lost with a very slim margin.

It is clear that no matter what NCP-INC would have lost the state. Anti-incumbency and a resurgent BJP worked against it. However, smarter politics could have helped mitigate the extent of this lose. The INC has always been able to reinvent itself and its ability to ally with local leaders has been a large part of this. The push  and pull of alliance politics have led to unlikely bedfellows, have sometimes led to policy paralysis and often acted as a check on the power wielded by national parties. If the INC intends to remain relevant in national politics then it needs to choose its friends and foes carefully.


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