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Here are alliance and voter equations of Maharashtra

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New Delhi, Feb 21: With the political alliance between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena, the battle of Maharashtra has begun for upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

BJP President Amit Shah flanked by Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray during the announcement of an alliance between Shiv Sena and BJP for Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, in Mumbai

The alliance stitched on Tuesday between the historical allies for 48 Maharashtra Lok Sabha seats gives the BJP 25 and the Shiv Sena 23 seats.

BJP's Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis played a very important role in forging the alliance, which seemed in limbo after the Shiv Sena's continuous attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the recent past.

Why Shiv Sena agreed for an alliance with BJP

The Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), led by state strongman Sharad Pawar, are also expected to join hands to counter the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance.

The current Lok Sabha strength among these parties gives an edge to the BJP, which won 23 seats in 2014. Shiv Sena is on the second spot with 18 seats.

However, BJP's tally was reduced to 22 after its candidate Hemant Patle was defeated by the NCP's candidate Madhukar Kukde in the Bhandara-Gondiya bypoll in May this year.

The bypoll gave a ray of hope to both the Congress and the NCP that a united opposition can defeat the BJP even in its stronghold Vidarbha region.

With this win, NCP's current Lok Sabha tally now stands at five. The Congress had managed to win only two seats in 2014. Raju Shetti of Swabhimani Paksha is the other Lok Sabha member, who is a part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

The BJP-Shiv Sena have their core voters among 79.83% Hindu population of Maharashtra. Other political players will also be looking for their piece of cake within this Hindu vote bank.

Apart from the face of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP-Shiv Sena alliance will also seek votes on the basis of their coalition government's works in the state.

Interestingly, this time BJP-Shiv Sena have excluded their 2014 partners: Swabhimani Paksha and Republican Party of India (Athawale).

Miffed Union Minister of Social Justice and Republican Party of India (Athawale) chief Ramdas Athawale has said with this move, BJP- Shiv Sena's Dalit votes will definitely be affected. He is demanding a seat for his party and claims if his party joins BJP-Shiv Sena alliance then they can win 43-44 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

Dalits and Dalit Leaders

According to Census 2011, Maharashtra's total population is 11,23,74,333.

The Scheduled Caste (SC) population in the state recorded a growth of 34.3% since 2001. The SC population in 2001 was 98,81, 656, which increased to 1,32,75, 898 in 2011.

At the district level, Akola has the highest proportion of SC population with 20.1 % followed by Latur 19.6 %, Washim 19.2 % and Nanded 19.1 %.

No 'war for poll gain' rhetoric: Sena cautions govt

As per 2011 census, the Scheduled Tribe population is 1,05,10,213. The growth rate for the ST population during 2001-11 stands to be 22.5 percent and their proportion in the total population is 9.4 percent against 8.9 percent in 2001.

Nandurbar district has the highest proportion of ST population with 69.3 %, followed by Gadchiroli 38.7%, Dhule 31.6 percent % and Nashik 25.6%.

There are 59 sub-castes in the SC population of Maharashtra and among them, the Mahar community is the largest vote bank as it mainly follows Buddhism. Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, whose caste was Mahar, along with 365,000 followers had converted to Buddhism in Nagpur on 14 October 1956.

The population of Buddhists in Maharashtra is 5.81%, who are believed to be staunch opposers of the BJP and Shiv Sena for being Hindu parties.

Though there are many claimants of Ambedkarite vote bank, the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh leader Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of B. R. Ambedkar, seems to be the tallest leader in this segment.

Ambedkar, however, has roped in the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM), smaller anti-BJP parties, and other marginalised groups under the banner Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA).

He is bargaining hard with the Congress-NCP leaders for around 12 seats for VBM candidates in order to join the anti-BJP alliance. He has another condition: the Congress should give in writing that if it is voted to power then it will clip the wings of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) under the ambit of several provisions of the Constitution.

Considering the hard posture of Ambedkar, the Congress and the NCP are in dilemma.

Ambedkar, on the other hand, is ready to field candidates on all 48 Lok Sabha seats. On February 13, he announced the names of VBA candidates for five Lok Sabha seats in Western Maharashtra. At the time of the launch of the VBA, it had made it apparently clear that it will fight elections on all the 48 Lok Sabha seats across Maharashtra.

It's notable that the percentage of Muslim population in Maharashtra is 11.54 and both Buddhists and Muslims constitute 17.35% of the population. This equation may not be the winning one but it may change the political math of other players in the fray.

BJP tames the roaring tiger

AIMIM chief and Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi, has himself tasted the fruits of Muslim and Dalit vote bank consolidation during 2015 Aurangabad Municipal Corporation elections. The AIMIM won 26 seats and was second-largest. Out of 26 corporators, five were Dalits.

Smaller Parties

After BJP-Shiv Sena, and another important alliance of NCP and Congress unfolding; the smaller parties like Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), Samajwadi Party, the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP), Republican Party of India (Athawale), etcetera have been lurking.

The MNS is being opposed from state leadership of Congress as well as Samajwadi Party for MNS chief Raj Thackeray's stand against people from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The MNS is accused of launching attacks on people from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh living mainly in Mumbai.

The MNS performed very poorly in the last Lok Sabha elections, but both the Congress, as well as the NCP, know strengths of MNS Chief, who himself is a very good orator and his party has the capacity to influence around 70000 voters in approximately 10 Lok Sabha seats.

The alliance game has just started in Maharashtra and it will be interesting to watch new what type of new developments come to fore in the coming days.

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