Once again a curious election, littered with many dominating political parties, is going to take place in Maharashtra after few days. It is exciting that Maharashtra is going to witness a direct battle between two heavy-weights coalitions. The BJP and Shiv Sena are stretching on one corner, while the Congress and NCP are warming up on the other corner for a tough bout.
In this battle once again Sharad Pawar, Maharashtra’s tallest leader for nearly 50 years, is fighting hard to give his Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) a new twist. This fight will be cut-throat for the Indian National Congress (INC) as the party is in declining position in the state–Maharashtra.
Maharashtra has a love-hate relationship with the Congress party that has seen many rise and fall post the state was formed in 1960. Indeed if there is one state that perhaps best demonstrates the decline of the Congress and the rise of the BJP, it is Maharashtra. Maharashtra is a state where a non-Congress opposition has never won a majority on its own.
The Congress party enjoyed a nearly unchallenged dominance of the state political landscape, until 1995 when the coalition of Shiv Sena and the BJP secured an overwhelming majority in the state, beginning a period of coalition governments. Shiv Sena was the larger party in coalition. From 1995 until 2014, the NCP and INC formed one coalition while Shiv Sena and the BJP formed another for three successive elections which were dominated by INC-NCP alliance.
But after Congress emerged as grand party in the state from a new low in the post-Babri period when a communally charged atmosphere eroded traditional vote banks, once again it was wiped out in the metropolis by the Modi wave in 2014.
There may be many factors for Congress decline in Maharashtra during its journey from the largest party of the state towards shrinking to the small one. It is true that politics has left its original sense particularly in last decade as religious polarization has been legitimised in today’s politics. So the Congress has a big challenge in this aspect to stand strong in this tough battle.
The disputes between Sharad Pawar and the INC president Sonia Gandhi also gave the party a big jolt as the state’s political status was upset when Pawar defected from INC which was perceived as the vehicle of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.
The other factor is that social churning among non-Maratha OBC groups found more space within the BJP and Shiv Sena as the BJP put together an alliance of upper castes, the other backward class (OBC) and to some extent the Dalit to fight the Maratha-led Congress and NCP. One of the major factors particularly in 2019 assembly elections is Maratha leadership deserting the Congress for the BJP.
In the wake of this declining condition, it would not be a cup of tea for Congress to win the assembly elections of Maharashtra as it used to be in earlier a decade ago. Rather it would be a very tough fighting with its all opponent mainly with BJP which is the largest political party in the modern history of India.
So the Congress, before jumping into arena, has to recover its lost honour in the state realising the factors that pushed the party aside in the battlefield. It has to overcome all the causes and factors of its decline to contest the elections otherwise the end result is obvious that the BJP is rapidly dominating the entire country.
By Faheem Usmani Qasmi