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Threat of irrelevance looms over Congress, MNS

A record 203 candidates of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and 116 of the Congress forfeited their deposits in the state assembly elections. The MNS won just one seat out of the 239 candidates it had fielded; the Congress managed a slightly better tally of 42 out of 287 contested constituencies. The performance and the votes fetched by both the parties speak volumes, considering the status and the importance both have enjoyed, albeit in different perspectives.

While the Congress has always enjoyed immense clout in state politics, the MNS had become a reckoning force during the 2009 general elections to the Lok Sabha as well as the state assembly. The Congress, which headed the Democratic Front government since 1999, has received 94.96 lakh votes (18 per cent vote share), which is 52.13 lakh less than the BJP’s 1.47 crore votes (27.8 per cent vote share).

The Congress’s popularity has dipped alarmingly. It is more perturbing for Congress leaders, who were confident of performing better than the NCP, which, according to them, was ‘damaged’ due to the charges of corruption and taints of scams. Congress leaders appeared to be relieved when the NCP decided to snap ties, as, according to them, the wave of anti-incumbency was more against the NCP. But, the latter’s tally of 41 seats is just one short of Congress’s, and its vote share is 17.02 per cent, 0.8 per cent less than the Congress. In fact, the NCP managed to increase its vote share as compared to the 2009 assembly polls.

Losing old bastions
The results reveal that the traditional vote banks such as those of minorities and Dalits have deserted the Congress. The entry of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) and the swing in Dalit and north Indian community’s votes in favour of BJP has left the Congress in a vulnerable position. Though the MIM has won just two seats, its candidates were at second or third position in 14 constituencies. All these seats are known bastions of the Congress. In Mumbai and Thane, the Congress won just 5 out the total 60 seats. Votes from minorities and north Indians have also been shared by the BJP, as the vote is for development, if reactions from the communities are heard.

The Dalit vote bank, too, has been split, and the BJP has managed to win in 15 out of 29 constituencies reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC). The Congress, on the other hand, had to contend with just two seats. The trend visible in tribal-dominated constituencies, too, is disquieting for Congress, as the BJP has won 11 out of 25 seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes (ST), as opposed to the Congress’s 5 wins.

For the MNS, the election results have come as a severe jolt and threat to its existence. The party, under Raj Thackeray’s leadership, had scuttled the Shiv Sena and BJP’s joint bid for power during the 2009 general elections. Thackeray had announced in 2009 that, for him, the state elections in 2014 were the real goal. His blueprint for the development of Maharashtra was one of the talking points for the party’s admirers. But things appeared amiss when his party failed miserably during the Lok Sabha elections. Plans for assembly elections went haywire with the late release of the ambitious blueprint.

Its traditional voters, youth and women, went with the BJP, followed by the Shiv Sena, leaving the MNS in a precarious position. Raj Thackeray’s style of running his party on his whims and fancies took a serious toll. His party cadre was mostly sitting idle for want of a programme to take the party forward. He failed to convince his voters that he was serious and working steadfastly to achieve his party’s goal in the interest of the common people.

Today, both the Congress as well as MNS should be worried, as they are threatened by the irrelevance of their current political agenda. For the Congress, it is due to the desertion by its traditional vote banks. The MNS faces a big question mark over its credibility. Unless serious efforts are made, both the parties will find it difficult to tide over the crisis. Unless corrective measures are taken quickly, their cadres may dump their respective parties.

The writer is Political Editor of mid-day

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