Advantage BJP: On Maharashtra Assembly polls

As campaigning gains momentum in Maharashtra for the Assembly election on October 21, the ruling BJP has reinforced itself and disoriented the opposition. With this election, the slow changes in Maharashtra politics over the last five years have taken shape. Devendra Fadnavis is the first non-Congress Chief Minister in the State to complete a five-year tenure. He has decimated internal party rivals and forced ally Shiv Sena to accept a subordinate status. The BJP unilaterally announced 164 seats for itself out of the total 288 and the Sena, which used to get the lion’s share of Assembly seats and the CM’s post, meekly accepted the situation. This supremacy of the BJP is partly due to national factors, but the fact that the party’s Hindutva nationalist politics has trumped the Sena’s regional agenda is itself noteworthy. The Thackerays at the helm of the Sena used to control power in the State without contesting elections, but this time, one of them is personally in the fray, in yet another sign of the changed times. The BJP augmented itself with a cocktail of social and administrative measures over the last five years. It weakened the Maratha power network but also offered the community reservation. Massive protests by run down farmers was met with a loan waiver scheme. The Bhima Koregaon incident of 2018 in which a Dalit gathering was attacked by a violent group was followed by an extensive crackdown on social activists and Dalits by the State police. The BJP’s social engineering meanwhile roped in OBCs to its fold.

Ruthless efficiency remains the hallmark of the BJP, while the NCP-Congress combine is battling internal dissent, organisational disintegration and an unfavorable social climate. Several coalition leaders crossed over to the other side. NCP chieftain Sharad Pawar is himself the target of an ED inquiry. Former Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam is unhappy that his supporters have been ignored in ticket selection and will not campaign for the party. Dynastic politics appears to be the comfort zone of an opposition in retreat. Children of several leaders are in the fray, and among the new entrants is Rohit Pawar, the grand-nephew of the patriarch. The NCP-Congress manifesto is a combination of nativist slogans such as reserved employment for the local population and addresses broader issues regarding agricultural crisis and environment. Grand intentions of the alliance are hardly inspiring because of the popular apathy towards dynastic politics and the elites who stand rightly accused of rigging the social and economic order to their benefit. The Congress-NCP combine is deeply entangled in the State’s cooperative and sugar sectors, which was once a source of strength but is currently a millstone around its neck. Maharashtra is the perfect stage for an ascendant BJP that is promising to bring down the old order.

Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 26, 2022 2:28:59 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/advantage-bjp/article29620811.ece