Battleground Maharashtra

Battleground Maharashtra

The Politics of Maharashtra

                 The state of Maharashtra has been the hotbed of political struggle in India. It has been a decisive state for both general and state elections. Many leaders have formed alliances at the Centre and state for political ambition and power. The state’s history can be traced long before independence much beyond the time of the Shivaji era. In 1937, Bombay presidency had become province under British India, and in 1947, after independence, many princely states that were under the British rule- The Deccan states and Gujarat states, were merged with the province of Bombay. In 1956, the Bombay state was enlarged which included the Marathwada region of Hyderabad state, the Marathi speaking region of Vidarbha, and the Gujarati-speaking areas of Kutch and Saurashtra. Yashwantrao Chavan was the first Chief Minister of the state of Maharashtra.

               The state has also produced great political leaders like Yashwanth Rao Chavan, P.K Sawant, Vasantdada Patil, Sharad Pawar, Manohar Joshi, Sushil Kumar Shinde and others until Devendra Fadnavis in 2014 becoming the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Another great leader of Maharashtra was Balasaheb Thakre who stood up for the masses in the state. The INC (Indian National Congress), The BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) and Shiv Sena have also had their representatives being elected to power in the state of Maharashtra. Since the time of independence, there have been many alliances formed by different political parties despite struggles and conflicts in public life.

               The politics of Maharashtra has been predominantly dominated by the Congress and the NCP (Nationalist Congress party) for a very long time. In Maharashtra, there has also been an alliance between the BJP and Shiv Sena from 1995 to 1999, different from the present equation today. Shiv Sena is a right-wing party that stands for a pro-Hindu-Maratha ideology, which was founded by Balasaheb Thakre in the sixties. The party also has tremendous influence in the city of Mumbai. Another leading figure of Maharashtrian politics is Sharad Pawar who split from the Congress party in 1999 and formed the NCP.

               The NCP has a great stronghold in Western Maharashtra’s constituencies and the region of Vidarbha is generally known to be a BJP’s bastion. The Shiv Sena and the BJP have formed alliances before despite conflicting viewpoints on many issues today. From 1975 to 1995 there were more than seven Chief Ministers in the state, which reflected the instability of the political scene. Maharashtra has actually had many powerful leaders till date but the state has not been able to elevate any leader to become the Prime Minister of India, despite having the Congress at the Centre.

The Road ahead for 2019

              The Assembly elections for Maharashtra, are likely to be held in October 2019. However, both general elections and assembly elections have to be viewed differently for analysis. One has to note that in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections where the BJP-Shiv Sena combines won 42 out of 48 seats in the state, 4 seats in which they lost were won over by NCP. The NCP has strong control over Western Maharashtra, and the BJP has access over Vidarbha and other central regions of Maharashtra while the Shiv Sena has an edge over Konkan and Mumbai, and the INC is spread all over the state. The religious and caste profiling also gives a perspective in an election process apart from just the votes.

               The state of Maharashtra will vote in 4 phases for the coming general elections, and counting for all constituencies will happen on May 23rd 2019. In the 48 constituencies of Maharashtra, the BJP won over 23 seats while the Congress got only 2 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The NCP also won from 4 constituencies and the Shiv Sena got elected from the other 18 constituencies. Many predict the BJP to have an upper hand in the Lok Sabha elections, even against an option of the Congress-NCP combine. An upswing for BJP through its victory in the civic polls in mid-2018(Jalgaon and Sangli) had also puzzled many psephologists.   

              However, for the Assembly elections in Maharashtra of 288 seats, there are mixed views from different surveys. The issues on the ground between NCP, Shiv Sena, and BJP are many, and the Shiv Sena’s external support in the coming election will play a determining role as to who might win. The tragic incident of the overbridge collapsing in Mumbai yesterday has caused a lot of pain to Mumbaikars. The government has stepped in and is investigating the issue and is also providing compensation to the families of victims. Despite negligence by civic authorities, the people of Mumbai are upset with many such issues.

             There are a host of bright initiatives executed by the present government, but there are larger systemic issues that besiege the state of Maharashtra. For instance, the agrarian crisis, affordable quality schools, public transport and water-supply management are some of the many problems that have been the focus of attention in the last decade. Both the UPA and NDA government have had their positives and negatives while governing in Maharashtra. However, one has to remember that development is not a one-time fix by any single government. It is a continuous process of successive governments fixing civic and social issues. There has to be that consistency as there is no ideal process for governance which suits all.

                Indian democracy has its strengths and weaknesses, and every state has its share of troubles. Maharashtra has a youthful population and jobs do matter for the people of every state. Maharashtra is a state which is in need of political leadership that can echo the narrative of policy which reflects the aspirations of people. 2019, will definitely be a determining factor for all players as to how citizens will cast their votes?

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