It may not have been the much- touted landslide of over 220 seats (Ab ki bar 220 par) but the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena alliance looks set to form the next government in Maharashtra unless something drastically goes wrong.
And yes, the elections results showed that the Opposition is not quite dead in the state as the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) tally of 54 is almost on par with the Shiv Sena at 56 seats. While the first Thackeray got elected to the state assembly, the BJP-Sena alliance lost five of its ministers, two of them from the Marathwada region, which is significant. BJP cabinet minister Pankaja Munde (daughter of the late BJP leader Gopinath Munde) lost Parli by a margin of 30,000 seats to her estranged cousin Dhananjay Munde of the NCP. The fractious family politics was evident during the Lok Sabha election earlier this year but Munde’s other daughter, Pritam, managed to win the Beed seat. Her sister was not so lucky and she couldn’t handle the rebellion within the party and the unhappiness of her electorate as well.
Contrary to the BJP’s campaign that the Opposition was decimated, the NCP exceeded its previous tally in 2014 and didn’t fare too badly specially in Western Maharashtra, denting the BJP. Sharad Pawar can take a bow for not giving up on his loyal cadres and for campaigning hard. And it must relish the defeat of its former member Udayanraje Bhosale (who switched to the BJP) in the Satara Lok Sabha by election today.
A loss of 17 seats for the BJP won’t affect its roadmap to form the government but it has little reason to be complacent. Fadnavis obviously has his task cut out and its not easy being the face of the elections. The BJP had totted up 122 seats in 2014 but this time, it has managed 105. While the urban voter seems happy with the BJP, it is the rural countryside where the problems exist. Drought- hit Marathwada for instance is where the party should have sensed a weakness. Even during the Lok Sabha elections, the administrative neglect of the region was unmistakable.
The Shiv Sena hasn’t improved on its tally of 63 in the 2014 elections but Aditya Thackeray’s name is being put forward for chief minister by his party. The Congress has won 44, two more than in 2014 while the smaller parties have not rocked the boat and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has won a single seat.
While the mandate is decisive, the BJP Shiv Sena alliance should move beyond its rhetoric and focus on development where it matters. It has banked on big ticket infrastructure but has neglected large parts of the state which continue to suffer agrarian distress, drought and poor health and infrastructure facilities. Instead of bullet trains, it could do well to have a more sustainable grassroots approach which will not only help consolidate its position but also benefit the voters who have reposed faith in it for a second time.
Voters boycotted the elections in Dahanu taluka (Palghar district), 120 km from Mumbai on environment issues, and the BJP lost to the Communist Party of India (Marxist). It is a warning for the alliance, that it cannot fritter away this second chance.
(Meena Menon is an independent journalist and author based in Mumbai)
The views expressed above are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.