Maharashtra assembly elections
Four months after the NDA’s resounding win in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP in Maharashtra, led by Devendra Fadnavis, heads into the state elections, riding on PM Narendra Modi’s popularity, 
Four months after the NDA’s resounding win in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP in Maharashtra, led by Devendra Fadnavis, heads into the state elections, riding on PM Narendra Modi’s popularity, 
the Shiv Sena’s agreement to play the role of junior partner and the disarray in Congress and NCP following a series of defections to the saffron camp.
BJP president Amit Shah has said the BJP-Sena alliance will win a three-fourths majority in the state. Chief minister Fadnavis told TOI, “In the LS polls, the BJP-Sena alliance won 41 seats.
In the assembly elections, it should not be difficult for the saffron combine to cross the 240 mark.” Apart from his handling of the Maratha reservation stir, Fadnavis is likely to bank on his infrastructure expansion plans and loan write-offs for farmers to see him through. Maharashtra has 288 assembly seats in all, so the majority mark is 145.
While Fadnavis’s clean image and push for projects, particularly the Metro in Mumbai and other cities, is expected to help BJP, the party is especially upbeat over the popular endorsement of its August 5 decision to revoke special status of J&K.
At the state level, the highlight of the poll season so far has been the rate at which high-profile Maratha leaders, for long associated with Congress and NCP, have bolted; crossovers to the BJP and Sena have drawn attention to the opposition’s failure to stem the tide against attrition.
Fadnavis, the BJP’s first CM in Maharashtra and the state’s second Brahmin CM after Manohar Joshi of Sena, will also be seeking votes in the name of the Maratha quota okayed by his government in state jobs and education. Marathas form about 30% of the state’s population.
Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, on the other hand, has the challenge of competing against his own ally to try and regain the position of senior partner, which the Sena lost to BJP when they contested separately and it ended up with only about half the number of seats as the BJP (63 against 122). Congress and NCP, who also fought separately, won 42 and 41, respectively.
The Sena is also attempting to push Uddhav’s son Aaditya centrestage, with one Youth Sena office-bearer pitching him for the CM’s post even though Fadnavis has asserted he will be back again as CM.
Fadnavis has also been accused of neutralising his challengers within the state BJP in the past five years; ostensibly granting a clean chit to cabinet members who are accused of irregularities, but ensuring at the same time that their stature stands diminished. At least two of his senior ministers, Eknath Khadse and Prakash Mehta, had to step down after charges of irregularities.
The Congress and NCP’s morale is at an all-time low after their defeat in the LS polls and the exodus of leaders and party workers. In the past six months, leader of opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and former minister Harshawardhan Patil have quit and joined BJP while Congress’s Marathwada leader Abdul Sattar joined Sena.
Sharad Pawar’s NCP has taken a huge hit with Pawar’s one-time confidants such as ex-minister Madhukar Pichad, Vijaysinh Mohite Patil, Osmanabad leader, joining BJP.
Moreover, both BJP and Sena have made deep inroads into western Maharashtra, Vidarbha and Marathwada, till recently bastions of Congress and NCP. Since 2014, BJP in particular has gained control of a majority of the state’s civic bodies, councils and zilla parishads and today has the highest number of directly-elected chairpersons in municipal councils.
In the run-up to the assembly polls, the CM embarked on a statewide ‘Janadesh Yatra’ to spread the word about the various measures taken by his government to tackle drought and floods and tell them once again about the government’s farm loan waiver scheme, which has been criticised for poor implementation, and inform them about the status of the many infrastructure projects (worth Rs 2.5 lakh crore) undertaken across the state.
However, these measures have not been able to effectively curb farm distress, create jobs, provide pension to farmers or quell the disquiet among non-Marathas over the newly introduced quota.
While the pace of investment and other sectors has been slow despite the Make in Maharashtra initiative, and the glitches in the loan waiver well-documented, the pension scheme declared by PM Modi for farmers has also reportedly been shoddily implemented in the state, with only 20 lakh out of a total of 1.2 crore farmers benefiting so far. Yet the CM is seen as someone who has led a relatively clean administration, particularly in terms of transfers and postings of IPS, IAS officers.
The weakness of the opposition may have had a lot to do with all this, but state Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat said the going will not be easy for the government owing to its failure on all fronts. “The LS and assembly polls are different.
Though BJP was in power at the Centre, Congress in 2018 dislodged it in 3 states: MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Our performance in assembly elections will be impressive,” he said, adding the BJP-led government had failed to halt farmer suicides and not acted against “erring ministers despite evidence.”
However, the Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) threatens to damage Congress-NCP’s chances, just as it did in the LS polls by costing the ‘secular’ alliance at least five seats. The VBA was then allied with Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM.
Raj Thackeray’s MNS is also likely to enter the fray.
He carried out a vociferous campaign — without actually contesting — against the Modi government during the LS polls, but failed to deliver Congress-NCP any serious votes. He has more recently been in the news for his troubles with the Enforcement Directorate, which has questioned him about the IL&FS irregularities scam.