ooking at the leadership challenges and political crunch in Congress, its coming back to power in 2019 seems to be difficult. Maharashtra is a state in the western region of India and is India’s third largest state by area. It has over 112 million inhabitants and its capital, Mumbai, has a population of approximately 18 million. Nagpur is Maharashtra’s second capital as well as its winter capital. The politics of the state is dominated by the numerically strong Maratha-Kunbi community. This is the first time that the state has a Brahmin Chief Minister of BJP. There are national and regional parties in the state serving different demographics such as those based on religion, caste, urban, and rural residents. The Indian National Congress party has dominated the politics of Maharashtra since its inception in 1960 and also of predecessor states such as Bombay. Once Maharashtra became a bastion of the Congress party producing stalwarts such as Yashwantrao Chavan, Vasantdada Patil, Vasantrao Naik, and Shankarrao Chavan. Sharad Pawar has been a towering personality in the state and the national politics for nearly 40 years. During his career, he has split the Congress twice with significant consequences for the state politics. The Congress party enjoyed a near unchallenged dominance of the political landscape until 1995 when the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) secured an overwhelming majority in the state to form a coalition government. After his second parting from the Congress party in 1999, Sharad Pawar formed the NCP but joined a Congress-led coalition to form the state government after the 1999 Assembly elections.
Prithviraj Chavan of the Congress party was the last Chief Minister of Maharashtra under the Congress-NCP alliance that ruled until 2014. For the 2014 assembly polls, the two alliances between the NCP and Congress and between the BJP and Shiv Sena respectively broke down over seat allocations. In the election, the largest number of seats went to the Bharatiya Janata Party, with 122 seats. The BJP initially formed a minority government under Devendra Fadnavis but Shiv Sena has, as of December 2014, entered the government and therefore the government now enjoys a comfortable majority in the Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha. In between, Sena and BJP both were at the verge of parting from each other and Sena was aggressive on BJP. However, finally, they both know that if they don’t come together, they have no future to make it in power. On the other hand, once the most dominant political party, the INC started sinking as their prominent leaders like Vilasrao Deshmukh and Gurudas Kamat passed away, the remaining leaders from Sanjay Nirupam to Milind Deora have their political differences. Ashok Chavan and Prithviraj Chavan got in power fight, Sushil Kumar Shinde and his daughter are silent, and Narayan Rane switched his loyalties to BJP. Kripashankar Singh is invisible in power play. If you look at the overall scenarios from rural to urban Maharashtra, Congress has leadership crises. They don’t have strong representation to retain power.
The five states that went to polls in early 2017 is a classic example of how the voters behave across different regions. In UP and Uttarakhand, in the northern region, the voters are more religious and caste conscious. Just the mention of Kabristan and Shamsham, or giving tickets to 99 Muslim candidates larger than their proportion of the population in the state or electricity during Ramzan and load shedding during Diwali can surcharge the sentiments and emotions of the people to polarise. Though polarisation took place on both sides, Muslim votes divided between SP and BSP, whereas, BJP became the major recipient of the Hindu votes. Similarly, in Maharashtra, selection of issues are very important for them. Independently Congress does not count much in Maharashtra. Actually, Congress was more drag on the alliance than contributing to the cause of victory. In Goa and Manipur, Congress though is the largest party by getting the highest number of seats; BJP got the highest number of votes. Hence, in the general election, the votes count more. Also having more alliances, BJP is in a better position in these states. Congress secured victory in Punjab purely because of Captain Amarinder. Congress may do well even during 2019 in Punjab. However, UP alone is six and a half times that of Punjab. Hence, to be relevant in the 2019 general election, by itself is very difficult for Congress.
Dalits in Maharashtra, who constitute a large section of the voters, may be moving away from the UPA and looking at other parties. This was evident when the Ramdas Athawale-led Republican Party of India (RPI) struck an alliance with the BJP-Shiv Sena, and Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar hinted that he isn’t giving any commitment to the Congress in Maharashtra. Political analysts say that this election, the Dalit community may not support one leader like in the past, but instead vote for convenience. Appeasement of Muslims automatically generates polarization of Major community. The atmospheres get surcharged and Hindus in considerable proportion unite. In this rocket age messages get transferred so fast, the information reaches all over within minutes to far-flung areas. One should be careful in choosing words while delivering speeches or the actions of leaders should be carefully crafted. If you remember a visit by Sonia to Imam of Delhi made waves sending wrong signals resulting in the rout of Congress in 2014. This impression has got rooted in the minds of the people. It is very difficult to be erasing the same. The leadership vacuum is perceived to be another issue plaguing the party. The party is felt to be devoid of leaders capable to hold high offices. The entire leaders are believed to be of average or below average caliber. Rahul is certainly not the one the people will be happy about.
The downfall of INC can be seen from the beginning of the UPA 2. The amount of corruption and other related things (price rise, inflation, reservation, unemployment, etc.) they did, this was ought to happen. Congress will not be able to form the government on its own strength (or for that matter, neither BJP). Congress’s traditional allies are strong partners prone to do back seat driving and political blackmail. So, they will be doing the running and Congress will be titular.
We all know that no political party is corrupt less and no party will ever fulfill its 100 per cent of the promise. We have to find out best among worst and it’s been clear from the ongoing scenario as “all the birds of the same feather are flocking together”. No party dares to stand and fight against BJP on their own. They have to unite with their rivalries in order to gain power which clearly reflects that this alliance is not for the sake of the country but for their own.
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