Maha polls: Smaller parties too hold significance

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Raj Thackeray
This is a season of political bargaining in Maharashtra, and regional players like Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) are not shying of throwing their weight around their respective big brothers. Due to their hard stance, the 25-year old BJP-Shiv Sena alliance and the 5-year-old Congress-NCP alliance are on the verge of collapse. When the regional biggies like NCP and Shiv Sena are engaged in bargaining other smaller parties in the State are closely following the developments and keeping their cards close to the chest.
Almost ignored amid the ongoing stalemate over seat-sharing, these parties like MNS, AIMIM including the allies of Mahayuti RPI, RSP and Swabhimani Paksh can spoil prospects of the big players in the ensuing Assembly polls.

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS)

Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) is one of the major player in Maharashtra politics. It played a significant role in the outcome of the 2009 Assembly polls. Though, MNS may not have emerged as winner in the last polls, but it acted as game spoiler for BJP-Sena alliance in 2009.
But, the party failed miserably in the Lok Sabha elections, it was not even able to open its account since then it has been devising ways to make a come back. The party is sketching its new strategy for the ensuing Assembly polls.
Currently, it is standing at the crossroads, observing the ongoing conflict between the two major alliance over the sharing of seats. MNS chief has already declared that he won't contest the upcoming elections, but will lead the party at every front. Clarifying his stand, Raj said that he does not want to limit himself to one constituency. "The entire State of Maharashtra is my constituency and I do not want to limit myself to just one constituency," said Raj.
Seeing the past record, MNS has a pivotal role and can't be ignored in the upcoming Assembly polls.

All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM)

The Hyderabad-based All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) led by Asaduddin Owaisi has recently announced that it will field 30-40 candidates for the State Assembly polls. The party will be relying on Muslim and Dalit votes, and promises them development, jobs, education and health services. The party has already started preparing for elections in Marathwada, Vidarbha, Mumbai, Malegaon.
The move has caused panic in the ruling Congress-NCP camp as it would cut into secular votes and thus, benefit the BJP-Sena combine. AIMIM has significant presence in some parts of the State. It came second to the Congress in Nanded civic polls in 2012, pushing the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to the third spot. Dalits constitute 16% of the total voters in the State while the Muslims' share is about 13%.

Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSP) and Swabhimani Paksh

Both, the Rashtriya Samaj Paksha and Swabhimani Paksh are important constituent of 'Mahayuti'.
Swabhimani Paksh-led by Raju Shetti and the Rashtriya Samaj Paksh of Mahadeo Jankar have already sent signal about their readiness to explore new alignments if the BJP-Sena alliance fails on seat-sharing talks.
In an interview with Indian Express, both leaders said their parties would contest jointly if the Shiv Sena and the BJP failed to reach an understanding.
Though, these parties are small but could influence the poll trend in the upcoming Assembly polls.

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