With voters handing BJP and Shiv Sena a thumping victory in state Lok Sabha seats and a clean sweep in Mumbai and Thane, Cong-NCP combine has good reason to be worried
The Narendra Modi tsunami could well be headed towards Maharashtra’s shores, and it may herald bad news, not only for the Democratic Front government in the state, but also for the Shiv Sena. With the NCP winning just four seats in the state and the Congress a measly two, the Congress-NCP government has little time to shore up its defences before the state assembly elections are held in October.
It is clear that Modi is going to be the star campaigner for the state elections and the clean sweep for the saffron alliance in Mumbai and Thane — 6-0 and 4-0 — respectively, will give the BJP-Shiv Sena combine a major advantage in the 36 assembly seats in Mumbai and 24 in Thane. These 60 seats could very well pave the way for the saffron parties to dethrone the Congress-led state government.
|Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan|
But the trouble may have already begun. Senior Congress leaders have told mid-day that Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan may follow in Assam CM Tarun Gogoi’s footsteps, accept responsibility for the party’s decimation in Maharashtra and submit his resignation to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi soon. Two of his colleagues, Industries Minister Narayan Rane and Water Conservation minister Nitin Raut have already done so.
A senior BJP leader also said that they could press for the dismissal of the Congress-led state government. “We may ask the Congress to face elections in the state sooner, as people have expressed their distrust for the party and given a clear mandate to the BJP. Modi, who has been facing barbs for 12 years over his role in Gujarat riots, may not offer the Congress even an iota of breathing room,” he said.
Terming his party’s performance shameful, a Congress MLA said, “The shocking defeat of stalwarts like Gurudas Kamat, Sushilkumar Shinde, Mukul Wasnik and nine-time MP Manikrao Gavit from Nandurbar will also go against CM Prithviraj Chavan and Dy CM Ajit Pawar and both of them may be asked to step down. We have never been so weak against the BJP and Shiv Sena and the saffron alliance was never considered a viable alternative to the Democratic Front,” he said.
Watch out Sena
Riding high on their party’s phenomenal victory, state BJP leaders told mid-day emphatically that the Shiv Sena will no longer call the shots in the state alliance. “We have given in meekly to the Thackerays and their tantrums for years now, even going to the extent of compromising on our growth to do so. The Sena should understand that their tally has much to do with the BJP under Narendra Modi and that things will change now,” said a senior leader, requesting anonymity.
When we asked him what he meant by that, he said, “In Maharashtra, our role has been secondary and the Shiv Sena has had an edge. To keep Sena in good humour, we surrendered the entire Thane district to Sena, displeasing stalwarts like Ram Kapse. We even gave them the South Mumbai Lok Sabha seat, ignoring the strong sentiments of our party men. But, things will no longer be the same. The trend has already started with us having the leader of opposition from our party in the current state assembly and if we win more seats than the Shiv Sena in the upcoming assembly elections, we will press for a CM from our party too. We will pull all stops to take the party to the number one position in Maharashtra, taking all help from Narendra Modi.”
Echoing his sentiments, another senior BJP leader said, “This victory has given us the best opportunity to grow in Maharashtra and, for that, we need to keep the Shiv Sena in check.”
The Congress has won only two Maharashtra Lok Sabha seats, Nanded and Hingoli, where its candidates are controversial ex-CM Ashok Chavan and youth congress president Rajiv Satav respectively. “Even in Nanded, the Congress owes its victory to the BJP, because the saffron party did not cultivate its own leader there and propped up D B Pawar, who was in the NCP before,” said a source.
Victory on a platter?
State bureaucrats told mid-day that there is a strong anti-incumbency mood among state voters, which the saffron alliance can capitalise on. There have also been serious allegations of corruption against ministers apart from a complete lack of decision making.
“Though there have been tall claims of development, there has been little or no progress in projects, leading to cost escalations. Unavailability of power, limited infrastructure and political high-handedness has forced industry to look to other states,” said a bureaucrat.
Even party workers of both the Congress and NCP are unhappy. Not only have cabinet vacancies not been filled, the state government has also been unable to nominate non-official members to state boards and corporations.
A Congress leader also admitted that various scams have contributed to anger against the government, which may prove costly during the assembly elections.
Good for city?
Modi being at the helm of affairs at the Centre could be good for Mumbai as he is likely to speed up infrastructure projects, keeping in mind the dominance of Gujaratis in the city and the upcoming assembly elections.