Maha Trends: Who looks poised to win the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra

There is palpable anger among Muslim, Dalit and agricultural communities against BJP. But has the Congress capitalised on this? Has the Modi Wave swept again? How is Raj Thackeray impacting the polls?

 |  5-minute read |   29-04-2019
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April 29 is seeing the fourth phase of polling for the Lok Sabha. Incidentally, this will be the last phase for Maharashtra.

The 2014 Lok Sabha results completely changed the political scenario — the BJP not just emerged triumphant but also became a force to reckon with. What was noticeable was the manner in which it outsmarted even the regional and local parties like the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).

Maharashtra suddenly had a new leader at the helm of the political pyramid.

There is no doubting that the BJP had its own political space in Maharashtra since the Jan Sangh days — but it is equally true that it always needed the might of the late Balasaheb Thackeray to push forward its agenda, to scale its numbers and expand its area of influence through the Shiv Sena’s local cadres.

But the arrival of Narendra Modi in 2014 changed the arithmetic and dynamics of Maharashtra politics. After having watched the entire game play out over the last five years and the campaign of 2019, here are the top six takeaways for the ongoing elections:

1.). The BJP strategically used 2014's Modi wave to further advantage

The party smartly spread its network area to those regions where the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) was strong.

It thus strategically looked for the second generation of Congress and NCP leaders to strengthen its base in places like western Maharashtra by targeting the known political families.

mods-690_042919120217.jpgNo, it didn't stop in 2014: The Modi Wave was leveraged by the BJP across Maharashtra thereon too. (Source: PTI)

These families had political clout over the region for decades and on the cooperative movement — the very movement the BJP had targeted for malpractice and political goondaism. These systematic moves paid rich dividends to the BJP in the sense that this resulted in political hollowness for the Congress.

The NCP, however, managed to keep its army together to a great extent in the face of this political onslaught. That perhaps could be the reason for the BJP making Sharad Pawar its prime target.

2.). Dalit-Muslim anger

There’s no doubting the fact that there is a lot of anger and discontent among the Muslim and Dalit population against the BJP. But the Congress, owing to its weak organisational set-up, failed to channelise this discontent and anger to its fullest advantage.

This then could also be the reason why Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar has now become a major threat for the Congress and the NCP as a vote cutter — he shows the potential of eating into the votes of the Congress-NCP combine. In Marathwada, this very Dalit-Muslim combine could have proved near-fatal for the Sena-BJP — but now, this, in turn, has become a cause of concern and trouble for the Congress and NCP.

Surprisingly, in the Vidarbha region, where the Sena-BJP had a clean sweep even in the Assembly, the Congress cadres have managed to put up a decent fight. Despite news of infighting in the leadership, the ground cadres have remained intact. These could well pose a formidable threat to the BJP’s prospects of winning maximum seats from the region.

The farm crisis has been another major issue.

Farmers are angry as the major schemes launched by both the central and state governments couldn’t make them happy enough to rise to the chants of 'Modi-Modi' like they did in 2014. Their issues are big — but at the same time, they also have a belief that the earlier Congress-NCP combine was no better.

3.). Rural distress

There’s no doubt that rural distress cost the BJP dearly in Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

But if the BJP is now hoping to change the verdict for the Lok Sabha, it should realise that this will be a Herculean task. Maybe for this reason, the Prime Minister found it convenient in Vidarbha to speak more about Hindu terror and the Balakot air-strikes than list what the government had done for farmers.

This move seems to have worked just fine even in the semi-urban centres of rural belts in various districts.

The Congress, however, is still banking on its traditional agriculture base.

vidarbha-690_042919120433.jpgStill Ploughing Hard: People are angry with both the central and state leadership for not doing much for farmers. (Source: Reuters)

4.). Urban voters

It can safely be said that the urban middle class has long forgotten the promise of ‘achhe din’ — but there is also truth to the fact that this class remains soft on PM Narendra Modi. This stems from the belief of the educated middle class and upper middle class that even though demonetisation and Goods and Services Tax (GST) didn’t succeed in achieving the said goals, yet these were good moves on part of the government to clamp down on people with black money.

The political tilt of this class towards the right is evident. In such a scenario, the only hope for the opposition is the lower class and lower middle class.

5.). The Raj Thackeray factor

In the last five years, the Congress-NCP, and even the MNS, were struggling to find the right kind of momentum to rally against the BJP. The government space was clearly with the BJP and it seemed that the opposition space had been occupied by the Shiv Sena, which constantly targeted the PM and Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis.

raj_042919120557.jpgA resurgent Raj Thackeray has made the political fight in Maharashtra very interesting. (Source: PTI)

In such a scenario, what gave the MNS a political breather was the Shiv Sena’s U-turn to have an alliance with the BJP for the 2019 polls.

This is now evident with the massive rallies that are being addressed by MNS chief Raj Thackeray — even though the MNS has no candidate in the fray, yet his rallies are drawing more crowds. With audio visual aids, the MNS chief is concentrating on showing the contrast between what the PM had said before 2014 and now.

6.). Maharashtra Assembly election

If the Congress-NCP combine manages to get even 10 seats more than its tally of 6 in 2014, it will serve as bad news for the Sena-BJP alliance for the upcoming Maharashtra Assembly poll, to be held later this year.

Also read: The Maha Turnaround: Decoding a Resurgent Raj Thackeray 

Writer

Sahil Joshi Sahil Joshi @sahiljoshii

Senior editor, India Today TV

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