NCP’s Sharad Pawar is playing his card well in the Maharashtra politics. Recently he met Mumbai BJP president Ashish Shelar at his residence in suburban Bandra. On one hand, Pawar has joined hands with all opposition parties to defeat BJP in the state and on the other hand, he is frequently greeting BJP leaders. The Congress is holding organisational meetings to take stock of the prevailing political situation, while the Sharad Pawar-led NCP has been undertaking attack yatras in various regions of the state since the last few months to “expose” the ruling BJP.
BJP and Sena relations are edgy, but still both the parties have no option than aligning with each other. If BJP wishes to return to power in the state, it cannot afford to fight the election separately from the Shiv Sena, especially if the Congress and NCP contest jointly. There will also be two sets of incumbency to compete with next year.
With a little more than a year to go for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, parties are already going full strangle with the poll campaign. By launching a bike rally from Jind in Haryana on February 15, BJP president Amit Shah kick-started the battle for 2019. Modi too pressed the gas pedal and tried to woo young voters when he interacted with school children in New Delhi on February 16. With an eye on the upcoming Lok Sabha and assembly elections in Maharashtra, Congress and NCP have started working on strengthening their organisational setups separately and launched mass outreach programmes to take on the BJP-led state government. Though the parties have launched various programmes in their respective capacities, they are yet to formalise any alliance to contest the elections.
In 2014 polls, both the parties, which had jointly ruled the state for 15 years, had contested separately against the BJP and the Shiv Sena. However, both of them fared badly during the Modi “wave” that time. But later on as the Modi wave faded, the others are taking chances of holding each other against one party. NCP has taken a lead over the Congress in projecting itself as an aggressive opposition party by attacking the Devendra Fadnavis-led government and maintaining the momentum. A section of the state Congress unit is unhappy with incumbent president Ashok Chavan, a former chief minister, as they feel that he is not aggressive enough to take on the ruling dispensation.
Congress had been organising district-wise camps and was in the process of setting up booth committees, but more needs to be done. The speed that BJP is working, gives challenges to it. If we look at the case of former Congress leader Narayan Rane, who quit the party last year and joined the NDA, while joining he made a statement that the party loyalists are being ignored while turncoats are being entertained. In spite of a bad defeat, Congress is yet to set their carpet in order to bounce back, almost all senior most leaders have given up on party affairs. They lost faith in Rahul Gandhi’s leadership and Congress future prospects. Loyalists were made to sit at home and are not given any responsibility. The recent appointment of new leaders on the All India Congress Committee is a signal for Chavan to get his act together, which is not liked by many. Nitin Raut, who demanded Chavan’s removal as the state president, has been made the chairman of the SC/ST cell of the AICC, while Rajiv Satav, who is not pro-Ashok Chavan, had been given the charge of Gujarat. Meanwhile, Congress had failed in putting pressure on the BJP government through its “hallabol” rallies. I mean they hardly succeeded in any of their moves to create weight on ruling party. The Bharat Band called by the communist and Dalits was much more effective than the Congress party stunts. The yatra, which began from Yavatmal in east Maharashtra last December, concluded in a rally in Mumbai this year.
The state government is indulging in publicity campaigns only and is giving false assurances to the people. It has used the state machinery to create a perception that a lot of development is happening. The government data about the number of farmers being benefited under the loan waiver scheme is not true.
The government’s claims are not reflecting on the ground. However, due to lack of strong opposition BJP is still confident over the party’s prospects in the upcoming polls and pointed at the performance of the party in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in the state. The BJP has won the maximum number of local bodies polls held in the last one year. The party’s electoral success is an indication that maximum people are happy with the Devendra Fadnavis government. Even though there is still time for political parties to go to the people, the Congress seems to be lagging behind as it is focusing on organisational meetings as well as district-wise meetings with the party workers. If they don’t pull their socks before time, 2019 would be another disaster. Though the NCP is seeking an early announcement of a pre-poll tie-up with the Congress, the ‘grand old party’ seems not to be in a hurry.
Going by the ongoing political scenario, the road to 2019 doesn’t appear to be smooth for the BJP. In 2014, out of the 248 seats in six major states, the NDA managed to get 224. But this time around, it may not be a cakewalk for them. After long-standing threats, the Shiv Sena may break its alliance with the BJP in the state. With that, the Sena has become the first major party to end its alliance with the BJP since Modi became the Prime Minister in 2014. If they go their ways, that will make the situation worse for the BJP ahead of the 2019 elections. In 2014, the NDA secured 42 out of 48 seats. Of these, the Shiv Sena had won 18. In spite of all, the permutations and combinations of the big question is whether Modi’s magic will work again and the party will be able to retain the same kind of popularity.
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