How & why Maharashtra went from a no-contest to a strong contest

MUMBAI: At the height of the state assembly election campaign, CM Devendra Fadnavis invoked the Fuhrer-like mustachioed jailer from the 1975 Bollywood classic Sholay with his “angrezo kay zamaney ke” pretensions. NCP chief “Sharad Pawar is like this jailer, saying “Aadhe idhar jaao, aadhe udhar jaao, bache woh mere peechche aao (Half the cops can move here, the other half can move there and the rest, stand behind me),” the CM said, recalling actor Asranis famous line.
Portraying the poll as not just an unequal contest but a non-contest didnt cut much ice with Maharashtras voters, who placed the BJP-Sena alliance across the winning line for sure but not before making it clear that this was no one-horse race.
The hype around the target of “220-plus” seats set by the BJP-Sena combine has understandably triggered odd reactions after the results: The saffron winners are shaken and in a sulk, and the “defeated” NCP and Congress are in a celebratory mood.
This part-setback for the yuti and bounceback for NCP-Congress brings in its wake the prospect of a possible erosion of authority and clout for CM Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, both of whom had publicly stated that the saffron camp had no opponents worth the name.
In the run-up to the polls, many of Pawars closest aides deserted him more swiftly than did the gaon-wale of Sholay when Gabbars men came calling on their scary horses, but the strategy of engineering defections of netas it had once described as tainted and unruly fief-holders significantly diluted the BJPs anti-corruption narrative. At the same time it sparked large-scale rebellion, with Fadnavis unable to rein in the rebels despite issuing a stern warning at a presser that those who didnt withdraw from the fray “would be shown their place.”
Moreover, it nullified gains that may have accrued from the Maratha quota the Fadnavis government granted the states nearly 30% Maratha population. If the Marathas of western Maharashtra and Marathwada welcomed the fulfilment of their demand, they looked askance at the targeting of Pawar right through the election campaign.
Farm distress, the overall state of the rural economy and the aftermath of the floods made the BJP all the more vulnerable to anti-incumbency in western Maharashtra, allowing Pawar to accuse it of sidestepping local issues.
In the arid Marathwada region, similar charges were hurled by the opposition. However, Fadnaviss slogan of a drought-free Maharashtra carried the day.
It would be over-simplification to state that the nationalist narrative did not yield results for the ruling party, because most urban areas – except Fadnaviss hometown Nagpur – sided strongly with the saffron parties and two important regions, Marathwada and Konkan, firmly expressed their support for BJP-Sena rule.
The clear takeaway for the Sena is that it cannot play ruling ally and opposition at the same time for long. The BJP has successfully entered its bastion, the coastal Konkan stretch, the Senas strike rate across the state is 20% less than that of the Modi-Shah-Fadnavis party (44% as against the BJPs 64%), and the BJP is also clearly No. 1 in Mumbai and the wider Mumbai Metropolitan Region for the second time running, having won 16 seats (as against 14 for Uddhavs party) in the city of the Senas birth despite having contested fewer seats.
For the NCP, it may have helped that long-time “fief-holders” made an exit, allowing some of the alleged “taint” to wash off and for new blood to come in. The ED action against Pawar and Read More – Source