It was Modi vs. the rest in Maharashtra: Nikhil Wagle

My 10 takeaways from Maharashta Assembly election:


1) The just concluded 2014 Assembly Elections in Maharashtra will go down as a historic development in the state’s politics, which has the potential to transform the face of Maharashtra. For the first time, a non-Congress party has reached a near majority. Since the inception of Maharashtra, BJP had never managed to reach the three-digit figure. Their highest number was 65 in 1995 when they formed the government with the help of their elder brother, Shiv Sena. But this time around, with 123 seats, BJP has inspired a tectonic change.


2) The anger against the 15 years regime of Congress and NCP was palpable among the electorate. Serious corruption charges were labeled against the government, which they were unable to refute. Voters desperately wanted a change. The alternative was offered not by BJP, but by Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose impact was experienced during the Lok Sabha elections. Modi filled the credibility vacuum created by local leaders like Sharad Pawar, Prithviraj Chavan, Ajit Pawar and so on. Voters believed in Modi and decided to give him a chance. This is not a verdict for BJP, but Modi. It was Modi verses the rest.


3) In spite of Modi’s popularity, BJP could not reach the magic figure of 144 in the assembly of 288 members. BJP’s national president Amit Shah tried his best with his electoral arithmetic. But Shiv Sena was able to stop them in regions like Kokan. In Vidarbha, BJP won 44 out of 62 seats. It is a big achievement, but the expectations were higher. The last minute decision of dropping the demand of separate Vidarbha from their manifesto could have damaged BJP here. In north Maharashta too, BJP could not live up to the expectations due to their weak party machinery. The lack of credible indigenous leaders and fragile cadres at remote places are the reasons behind BJP not crossing the halfway mark.


4) Political pundits are blaming Uddhav Thackeray for Shiv Sena's debacle. But I don't agree with them. In fact, this is the best performance of Shivsena after 1995 when they got 70 seats. This time around, they were able to win 63 in spite of Modi onslaught. Many thought that Shivsena would be swallowed by the Modi-juggernaut but it did not only survive the storm but came out with their self respect intact. Credit goes to aggressive campaigning by Uddhav and grassroot machinery of party.


5) Was it development verses Marathi pride, where the emotional issue took a back seat? I again disagree. Development was never ever a focus in this campaign. It was about clean and trustworthy leadership, where Modi won the battle. But along with this, the issue of Marathi pride helped Shivsena to protect their strongholds in Mumbai, Thane and Kokan. In fact, they totally snatched this plank from Raj Thackeray’s MNS.


6) As far as MNS is concerned, this election has been a big blow to them. Raj is more charismatic than Uddhav. His oratory skills are as good as his uncle. But elections are never conquered on charisma. Due to wrong policies and frivolous politics, Raj has reached this stage. He started well in 2006, but was not able to build the party. In 2009 assembly elections, he had 13 MLAs, now he is decimated to just one. It is time for him to introspect.


7) Raj should introspect but if there is anyone who needs utmost introspection, it is Congress and NCP. They have reached their lowest ever number in assembly elections. Congress is a house divided and NCP is totally engrossed in their politics of money and muscle power.


By declaring unconditional support to BJP, Sharad Pawar once again proved his 'Pawar Power', which a common voter will only perceive as shameless opportunistic politics.


8) This election could possibly write another chapter in the history of criminalisation of politics in Maharashtra. 165 of 288 newly elected MLAs have serious criminal charges against them and most of them are crorepatis.


 9) The participation of women candidates has been disappointing. Only 20 women candidates will be seen in the assembly, which is 7 per cent of the total assembly strength of 288. One wonders if it is still appropriate to call Maharashtra a progressive state.


10) This election will also mark a black chapter for media, which witnessed unprecedented 'Paid News'. In spite of the monitoring by the Election Commission, nobody could nail this cancer. Political parties sniffed the opportunity and took maximum advantage of the situation. It has set a dangerous precedent and the credibility of the media suffered like never before.


(These are purely personal views of Mi Marathi consultant and veteran journalist, Nikhil Wagle and does not subscribe to these views.)

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