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Wednesday, October 4, 2023
HomeEditorialMaharashtra and its ongoing politics – Part I

Maharashtra and its ongoing politics – Part I

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Maharashtrians are known to be of the Indo-Aryan race. Although they came into existence when the Maratha warriors of Shivaji Maharaj established the Maratha empire back in 1600s. While the majority population consists of Hindus due to the vast number of people migrating to Maharashtra is huge and hence the place is now divided by Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Jains, Buddhists and Jews. The mix of culture is not only seen by caste but also by taste, style and music that so many different people bring. In spite of so much of diversion, Marathi Manoos has its strong and different existence in Maharashtra politics.  Many political parties are born in the name of son of the soil. Maharashtra was born on 1st May 1960. Behind the state’s formation, there was bloodstained history. Jawaharlal Nehru and Morarji Desai (then chief minister of Bombay state) were against making Bombay the capital of Marathi speaking state. “In January 1960, demonstrators were fired upon by the police at Flora Fountain in the capital city of Mumbai. Flora Fountain was subsequently renamed Hutatma Chowk or “Martyr’s Crossroad” in their memory.

It is estimated that in all, 105 people were shot by security forces during the period of agitation and at different places. Morarji Desai was later removed and replaced by Yashwantrao Chavan as a result of criticism related to this incident. Babasaheb Ambedkar argued for making Mumbai the capital of the Marathi state. Maharashtra politics has always been largely dominated by the Congress and NCP. In 55 years of its existence, there were only two Non-Congress/Congress-NCP governments till now. One was the BJP-SS government of 1995-99 and other was the Fadnavis government that ruled from 2014-19. Between 1963-1975, there was only one Chief Minister – Vasantrao Naik but from 1975-1995 there were as many as seven Chief Ministers serving total of 11 terms reflecting the instability.

The Right-wing party Shiv Sena standing for pro-Hindu, pro-Marathi ideology was formed in 1960 by Balasaheb Thackeray – other right-wing party in the country was the Bharatiya Jana Sangh which was formed in 1951. Though Shiv Sena’s main influence was Mumbai and it could not grow in the rural Maharashtra and thus could not form a government until 1995. One of the tallest figures in Maharashtra politics Sharad Pawar split from the Congress in 1999 and formed the Nationalist Congress Party whose main area of influence is Western Maharashtra. In 2014, the Lok Sabha elections when BJP+Shiv Sena won 42 out of 48 seats in Maharashtra, four of those six lost seats were won by NCP in their Western Maharashtra constituencies.

Many leaders of the NCP are also the leaders of Milk and Sugar Co-operatives which brought the prosperity in Western Maharashtra farmers. Below is the result of Assembly elections 2014. But always NCP’s bastion was Western Maharashtra while BJP is concentrated in Vidarbha and Central Maharashtra. Shiv Sena’s bastion is Mumbai and Konkan while INC is distributed evenly across the state. Because Vidarbha is BJP’s bastion and BJP supports formation of more states, it supports statehood to Vidarbha as well, but is vehemently opposed by its partner Shiv Sena. Shiv Sena was always a big brother of BJP in the state which was formed much later in 1980. However, the last election in 2014 has changed equations in the state when Sena could manage to get only half number of the seats of BJP. After Babasaheb’s death, Shiv Sena was dominated by BJP and Modi, but this year, they broke the alliance and formed a government with Congress and NCP.

Raj Thackeray split from the Shiv Sena and formed his own Maharashtra Navnirman Sena party in 2006. The party has the ideology of son of the soil. He has been criticised for splitting of votes in Mumbai between him and NDA in 2009 Lok Sabha elections. In 2014, both Lok Sabha and Assembly elections he lost terribly getting no seat in LS and only two in assembly election (down from 13 in 2009). And this year the party managed to win only one seat. The party at large shrunk to a greater extent due to the arrogant and unreasonable approach of Raj Thackeray. People come in lakhs for his rallies but they don’t give votes to MNS. Perhaps this is the reason why Marathi manoos never made them a choice to rule Maharashtra.

Though Maharashtra politics was dominated by the Congress and so was that at the Centre for many decades, the state could not give India a Prime Minister till date. This is the thing which many Maharashtrians feel sad about. Since its inception in 1960 and also of predecessor states such as Bombay, the politics of Maharashtra has been dominated by the Indian National Congress party. Maharashtra became a bastion of the Congress party stalwarts such as Yashwantrao Chavan, Vasantdada Patil, Vasantrao Naik, and Shankarrao Chavan. Sharad Pawar has been a significant personality in both the state and national politics for nearly forty years. During his career, he has split the Congress twice with significant consequences for state politics. After his second parting from the Congress party in 1999, Sharad Pawar formed the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) but joined a Congress-led coalition to form the state government after the 1999 Assembly elections. The Congress party enjoyed a nearly unchallenged dominance of the state political landscape until 1995 when the coalition of Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) secured an overwhelming majority in the state beginning a period of coalition governments. The Shiv Sena was the larger party in the coalition. From 1999 until 2014, the NCP and INC formed one coalition while the Shiv Sena and the BJP formed  the other for three successive elections which the INC-NCP alliance won. 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 polling, the alliances between the NCP and Congress and between the BJP and Shiv Sena broke down over seat allocations. In the election, the largest number of seats went to the BJP with 122 seats. The BJP initially formed a minority government under Devendra Fadnavis but in December 2014, the Shiv Sena entered the Government and provided a comfortable majority in the Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha to the Fadnavis-led government. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP and Shiv Sena fought under the NDA banner, while the Congress and NCP were part of the UPA. The two alliances remained intact for the legislative assembly elections in October 2019. The BJP and Shiv Sena together gained the majority of seats in the assembly but could not form government due to squabbles between the two parties. The BJP–Shiv Sena alliance came to an end in early November 2019, with Sena subsequently forming a new alliance with its long-time rivals, the NCP and Congress, to form the new state government on 28 November 2019. Other parties in the state include the All India Forward Bloc, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, the Communist party of India, the Peasant and workers party, the All India Majlis-e Ittehadul Muslimeen, Bahujan Vikas Aghadi, the Samajwadi Party, various factions of the Dalit-dominated Republican Party of India, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Socialist party.

For the better part of the late-colonial and early post-independence periods in the state of Bombay and its successor Maharashtra state, the politics of the state have been dominated by the mainly rural Maratha–Kunbi caste which accounts for 31 per cent of the population of Maharashtra. They dominate the cooperative institutions; and with the resultant economic power, control politics from the village level up to the Assembly and Lok Sabha. As of December 2016 of the 366 MLAs (Legislative Assembly has 288 MLAs and Legislative Council has 78) combined, 169 (46 per cent) are Marathas. Major past political figures of the Congress party from Maharashtra such as Keshavrao Jedhe, Yashwantrao Chavan, Shankarrao Chavan, Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sharad Pawar have been from this group. Of the 18 chief ministers so far, as many as 10 (55 per cent) have been Marathas. Since the 1980s, this group has also been active in setting up private educational institutions.

(With inputs from various agencies)

(The latter part of the Edit will continue tomorrow)

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with three Honourary Doctorate in Journalism. Vaidehi has been an active journalist for the past 21 years, and is also the founding editor of an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, and The Democracy digital video news portal is her brain child. Vaidehi has three books in her name, "Sikhism vs Sickism", "Life Beyond Complications" and "Vedanti". She is an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, OSCP offensive securities, Certified Security Analyst and Licensed Penetration Tester that caters to her freelance jobs.
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