This is the election the Gandhis threw away in Maharashtra.

When it became clear on September 25 that the BJP was breaking its alliance with the Shiv Sena, there was still time for the Congress to secure its partnership with Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party.

If this had happened, the results on Sunday would have shown a majority for the Congress-NCP. That is what the voting percentages indicate. Despite its amazing success, the BJP only got around 32% of the total vote, early figures showed. This means the Congress and NCP together would have overwhelmed the two saffron parties in a three-cornered fight.

That it became four-cornered on September 26 speaks poorly of the competence of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and of their political skills. Sharad Pawar says Sonia Gandhi was keen but the local unit did not want it. It shows the Congress and NCP hated one another more than they disliked the BJP.

Good result but not great

For the BJP, it is a good but not a great result. Another 20 seats and it would have been liberated of the Shiv Sena forever. That did not happen. It has however beyond doubt established itself as the bigger party. It has also shown Uddhav Thackeray that he was totally wrong in insisting on being the senior partner in the alliance.

The limited time available to the BJP in fielding good candidates will mean that a section of the party will think that a better result is possible in future.

For the Shiv Sena, the result will show that though their senior status in the BJP alliance is gone forever, the party is needed by the BJP ‒ at least for now. However, the news is bad on many fronts. The Sena got around 16% of the vote, which is unchanged from the past. It lost seats in Mumbai to the BJP, which is a dangerous portent for the Sena's future.

Even if the two ally together to form the government, it will be an uneasy partnership. In fact it will resemble the marriage of the Congress-NCP. There will be a lot of hostility internally, given the language used by the Sena against the BJP, and given the two parties' medium-term and long-term strategies. The Sena will always be suspicious, rightly, that the BJP is trying to be independent of it. And the BJP, now that it has established its seniority, will always be looking to expand and become the sole Hindutva party.

NCP sits pretty

The NCP is in a relatively good place, even though it has dropped a few seats. It has offered to support the BJP from the outside. Even if its offer isn't accepted, it can claim the senior opposition role. It can always be friendly again with the Congress. However, the Pawars will be looking at the collapse of the Congress across India and will have to relook at their options, particularly now that there is no alliance with the Gandhis either at the centre or in Maharashtra.

Raj Thackeray had become irrelevant as a political force some time ago in terms of numbers. The further reduction of his seats means he will be under pressure from his supporters to take up nasty and violent issues again. This is bad news for everyone in Maharashtra.

For Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the results show a continuing winning streak. Some might say that winning only Haryana and not sweeping Maharashtra is disappointing, but that is not how he will look at it. His gamble of breaking with the Shiv Sena has paid off and the Gandhis, as he would have predicted, were not clever or wise enough to have taken advantage of this. They had a superb chance to dent his image as an indestructible force and they fumbled it.