The Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena alliance delivered a knockout punch to the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party combine by winning 42 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra. It was their best-ever performance since forming a Mahayuthi, or grand alliance, 25 years ago. With just under 50 per cent of the vote, the BJP-Sena got nearly 88 per cent of the seats. While the BJP itself won 23 seats, the Shiv Sena took 18 and a third ally, the Swabhimani Paksha, picked up the Hatkanangle seat. The Congress, which won 17 seats in 2009, was reduced to winning just two while the NCP halved its 15th Lok Sabha tally, having had to settle for just four seats. In Mumbai, the Mahayuthi wrested all six seats from its opponents, with sitting MPs like the high-profile Priya Dutt and Milind Deora biting the dust. The Aam Aadmi Party and Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena made no impression. The AAP did get some media attention, but the electorate was not moved. Maharashtra will remain a key State for the National Democratic Alliance since it contributes the second largest share of seats to the NDA’s current kitty, second only to the whopping 73 from Uttar Pradesh. A breakdown of the vote share in the State would reveal that the BJP took 27.3 per cent, up by more than nine percentage points from its 2009 tally of 18 per cent, while the Shiv Sena increased its share by over three percentage points.
Lifted by the Narendra Modi phenomenon and flattened by 15 years of anti-incumbency at the State level and 10 years at the Centre, the United Progressive Alliance suffered a body blow. It can be legitimately argued that the Maharashtra voter punished the Congress-NCP combine for twin anti-incumbency. But, non-Congress parties demonstrated yet again that they were not hamstrung by incumbency and totted up huge numbers even after multiple terms in office. So, one must revisit the issue of performance, and the projection of government “performance” by the Congress-NCP leadership. The high levels of protection extended to the corrupt — both in the State and at the Centre — could not have escaped the voter. The Adarsh housing scam and the wide publicity it received demonstrated to Maharashtra and the rest of the country just how deep the rot had spread. On the back of the incumbency factor came nature’s fury, with hailstorms causing huge farmer distress in the region. There were repeated complaints of relief not reaching the affected people. As in other parts of the country, the Maharashtra voter has made plain her dissatisfaction with the Congress. With Assembly elections round the corner, the Congress-NCP alliance has just a few months to put the past behind it. But that will be a tough task.