Assembly election results 2017: The Gujarat effect in Maharashtra

Updated: Feb 02, 2018, 16:12 IST | Dharmendra Jore

The imminent concern that they countered in the wake of outcome in Gujarat was securing their own fate in the Assembly polls, to be held in Maharashtra in 2019

As results from Gujarat trickled in haphazard manner on Monday, the BJP leaders’ body language spoke more profoundly than the intermittent words they uttered. Legislators and ministers were taken by surprise when it became clear that the party hasn’t performed as expected in the neighbouring state. The imminent concern that they countered in the wake of outcome in Gujarat was securing their own fate in the Assembly polls, to be held in Maharashtra in 2019.

Gujrat polls 2017 narendra modi amit shah
Narendra Modi gestures at the start of a speech at the party headquarters in New Delhi. Pic/AFP

Several BJP legislators told mid-day that though they had to appear happy for the sake of the occasion, they weren’t satisfied, but worried as to what was in store for them in a fast-changing scenario. “To be frank with you, my inner feeling is different. I’m dejected and I’m really worried about my future,” said a BJP MLA who represents a rural constituency in Vidarbha. He said many others shared his sentiment because the rural population was very demanding of his party.

“Look what happened in rural Gujarat where BJP has lagged behind the Congress. Similar unrest is simmering in Maharashtra. We need to tackle this unrest as early as possible. Urban areas may not be as difficult as rural,” said the MLA

On the other hand, the ongoing legislative in Nagpur had increasing number of Congressmen basking in glory, despite their party falling short of numbers to make a government in Gujarat. With a spring in their walk and new vigour in their voice, the Congress leaders couldn’t stop themselves from taking a pot shot at their BJP counterparts. They were happy that the Congress has been able to give BJP top shots a run for their money.

“It doesn’t matter to us even if we don’t make a government in Gujarat. The people of Gujarat have supported us in beating unbearable arrogance of BJP and they have showed that Modi wave does not exist any longer. A real takeaway from Gujarat is the energy that will keep us fighting BJP in years to come. I’m confident that we will be able to come back to power in Maharashtra,” said Vijay Wadettiwar, deputy leader of Congress legislative party.

Wadettiwar said the people have exposed BJP’s fake model of development. “The situation here is no different. People are fed up and we need to tap that anti-government sentiment. And we’re sure that the Rahul Gandhi-led Congress will topple BJP in 2019,” he said.

A buoyed state Congress president Ashok Chavan Gujarat resultswas BJP’s moral defeat. “Our show under Rahul Gandhi has enthused us. BJP’s dirty tricks did not work and the voters did not allow BJP to reach a three-figure mark. We are happy that we have won 20 seats morethat the previous poll,” he said.

Devendra Fadnavis gujarat polls
Devendra Fadnavis. PIC/AFP

CM Devendra Fadnavis attributed the success in Gujarat to the people of Gujarat who have shown faith in BJP. “Victory in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh clearly indicates that the people of this nation believe in PM Narendra Modi leadership and his politics of vikas and vishwas (development and trust),” he told reporters.

He said the victory was massive because the people voted BJP to power after being in power for 22 long years. “We got about 50% votes. It speaks volumes and gives a clear verdict,” he said.

Parallels between Gujarat & Maharashtra

In Gujarat, the Patel community played a significant role in reducing BJP’s seats over unfulfilled demand for reservation, a political strong Maratha community is all set to make their long-pending demand for a quota in education and jobs a rallying point ahead of Lok Sabha and Assembly polls. But what offers BJP a big relief is that Marathas don’t have a leader like Hardik Patel who can bind the community together. The BJP has made several attempts to weaken Maratha agitation by splitting the leadership. It will again be up to Congress and NCP, if the two forms an alliance, to use Marathas as an affective political tool.

Like Gujarat, one prominent community’s agitation for quota has made other castes and communities to raise similar demands. It would be interesting to see how this polarisation works for  the ruling party and opposition. 

Also read: BJP wins elections in Gujarat: PM Narendra Modi says the country is ready for reform

Agrarian crisis is yet another serious concern that BJP has been facing ever since it came to power in Maharashtra. Discontent is simmering in rural and semi-urban areas where farmer families dominate the voting population. Delay in implementing a loan waiver scheme, failure in controlling falling prices of farm produce and increasing incidents of farm suicides have turned into political issues that need government’s prompt intervention.

Demonetisation and GST were among prominent highlights of campaigning in Gujarat. This may find a place in Maharashtra if they continue to affect people even in 2019.

Alliances yet again?

Though unlike Gujarat where a two-party set-up is in place for decades, Maharashtra has a four-party structure in which the BJP, Congress, Shiv Sena and NCP form the basic line-up, the two states have identical issues that decide their political discourse. In Lok Sabha, the BJP and Sena were in a pact, while the Congress-NCP too contested as an alliance. However, respective alliances broke ahead of 2014 Assembly polls, making it a four-way fight.

The Congress under Rahul Gandhi was smart enough in joining hands with Padidar organisation and leaders of other communities that felt ignored by the BJP government. Despite being disappointed with its own leaders who did not deliver much to benefit their community, most of Marathas in Maharashtra are most likely to have a tacit understanding with the Congress and NCP to ensure BJP’s defeat, if the Fadnavis government doesn’t fulfil their demand. Rest of Marathas are expected get split between BJP and Sena, and that, in true sense, will pose yet another challenge for BJP. Muslim community, which had drifted towards community-specific parties, has contributed significantly to Congress’s victory in local body elections in Maharashtra. Another major vote bank of Dalits has rarely supported one party in the recent past and it will again to left to negotiating skills of major parties to get as many splinter Dalit groups to side with them.

Will the Congress and NCP come together yet again? If Ajit Pawar of NCP is to believed then the two parties have almost decided to shun differences. On Monday, he showered praises on Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

“Rahul Gandhi’s performance and maturity has given us a new hope. Though I’m NCP worker, I have no hesitation is saying that the Congress has raised our moral by leaps and bound. I see a strong possibility of us getting together to fight BJP,” he said. Interestingly, the Congress accused NCP of causing defeats of its 10 candidates by contesting these seats in Gujarat.

If Congress and NCP get together, can BJP and Sena end their love and hate relationship?. Sena opposed BJP in Gujarat but returned home empty handed. Sena’s mouthpiece Saamna has been spitting venom against the BJP during Gujarat campaign. On Monday, BJP shamed Sena by hiring a band named Saamna and ridiculed it for scoring a big zero.

Insiders in Sena said they would not take BJP lying down anymore. “We may have lost all seats in Gujarat, but the anti-BJP feeling that voters showed has given us some more teeth to bite the BJP. We’re not going to get dictated by the BJP anymore,” said a senior Sena minister.

Sources said alliance in Lok Sabha polls may not be hard to come by because of previous arrangement between the two. But reaching a seat sharing formula for Assembly election will remain a bone of contention, because the BJP will not agree to vacate seats where it defeated sitting Sena MLAs

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