Reports from the prominent media outlets will have you believe that a strong anti-incumbency wave is building up against the current BJP led Government of Maharashtra. The recent incidents of Maratha agitation over reservation, farmer protests over milk prices had made the news headlines across India. The best example is how the the incident of “Farmers March” that took place in the month of March, 2018 in which thousands of farmers marched from Nashik to Mumbai was reported. Many would remember how this particular incident had caused a huge furor in social media; a flood of pictures of distressed farmers with injured legs and red flags marching towards Mumbai.
We have seen several intellectuals and political analysts in the country make a point on the basis of these occurrences that there is an underlying strong discontent among different sects of society in Maharashtra especially farmers, Marathas, Dalits, and OBCs. The opposition is doing its best to make the protests come across as a vote of no-confidence against the Devendra Fadnavis led BJP Government. However, a close look at all the results of the elections held in the last 4 years especially the most recent civic body polls of Jalgaon and Sangli-Miraj-Kupwada, tell us a different story altogether.
Jalgaon and Sangli-Miraj-Kupwada, on the 4th of August 2018, gave a resounding majority to the BJP, this came as a surprise not just to the usual critics but to many supporters as well. While Jalgaon was the stronghold of Shiv Sena Leader Sureshdada Jain, who as the reports say, had control over the civic body for the last 40 years, Sangli-Miraj-Kupwada has been a traditional strong hold of NCP and Congress. The results warrant an urgent introspection for both these opposition parties and Shiv-Sena. This is imperative if they are still hopeful of electorally defeating the BJP in the 2019 elections.
An Embarrassing Defeat in the Home Turf Sangli District has been a stronghold of Congress/NCP for years. The district is home to the current NCP President Mr. Jayant Patil and has produced stalwart leaders like Late RR Patil- Ex Home Minister and Late Patangrao Kadam whose son Vishwas Kadam was active in the current elections. Despite this Congress/NCP could not save the civic body. Such an occurrence especially at a time when there were claims made by the opposition of discontent against BJP speaks volumes of the condition of Congress/NCP today in the state of Maharashtra. Similarly in Jalgaon Shiv-sena could not save the civic body of Jalgaon in spite having a leader like Suresh dada Jain who as mentioned earlier controlled the Jalgaon civic body for the past 40 years. The fact that shiv-sena had to rely upon Mr. Suresh Dada Jain, even though had been in jail in the recent past, reflects upon its lack of strength in the region.
The Maratha Agitation: A House of Cards Marathas have always been the core vote bank of NCP. Even though the local civic bodies are fought on local issues, NCP did its best to use the issue of “Maratha Agitation” against the BJP. Sharad Pawar himself led the attack from the front directly taking on the CM on the issue of “Maratha Agitation”. Such a move should have benefited them considering the fact that the district is dominated by maratha votes who have a decisive say in the elections. However, on the contrary, BJP improved its seat tally from 0 to 41. A win by such a huge margin and an improvement in the vote share of this scale proves that Maratha’s overwhelmingly voted for the party. It can be argued that the factor of anti-incumbency existed as the Congress/NCP were in power for many years. Even so, the voters still saw BJP as an alternative while dismissing the “anti-maratha narrative” of the BJP built by the opposition.
An Unfruitful Alliance NCP lost so badly in sangli in spite having a coalition with congress. It has to be noted that both congress and NCP have a strong cadre as well as leader strength in the district. The demographic conditions were also in favour of NCP– majority of the population in the sangli district belongs to the Maratha community. On the other hand, sangli has been a weak area for BJP in terms of its cadre strength and overall presence in the past. In addition, the party was supposedly on the back foot on the Maratha issue. The odds were in the favor of Congress /NCP, which fought in alliance in these elections. Therefore this loss will make both these parties question the electoral utility of their alliance partners.
Emergence of a New Political Phenomenon In Maharashtra The recent civic elections are just a glimpse of the BJP’s victory marathon in the last 4 years. A party that was once number 4 in the state today controls majority of the civic bodies and nearly than 80% of the zilla panchayat or the district panchayat. While the anti-BJP narrative created by the opposition and some media outlets thrives; none of that has put a stop to the BJP’s election victories. It seems that Maharashtra is very much moving towards being a single party dominated state like it was from 1951 to 1980’s before the rise of BJP and Shivsena only this time BJP replacing congress as the dominant party. This is a new phenomenon and a detailed study by political analysts and social thinkers is required into its causes and impacts. As far as congress/NCP is concerned, the past 4 years have either been about orchestrating or hijacking community led agitations and creating a divisive agenda which has a tendency to affect social harmony. Leaving aside the obvious societal repercussions of such a strategy, it has not paid any political dividends either. The oppositions strategy lacks newness, consistency and a well defined ideological framework.
Albert Einstein once famously said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. If the same spit and run kind of politics is practiced by the opposition things are going to get worse for them in the future.