The trends of the Maharashtra Assembly election are clear. As per trends, Congress and NCP have improved their tally while BJP-Shiv Sena suffered a setback. So far, the tally of NCP has improved from 41 seats in the last assembly election to 56 and that of Congress has improved by 3 seats, from 42 seats in last election to 45 this time. The biggest beneficiary in the election is NCP which registered 15 seat improvement compared to the last election. NCP and Congress have formed a pre-poll alliance and both parties contested 125 seats each. In the 288 assembly constituencies, they have kept 38 seats for other allies. Apart from NCP’s spectacular performance, the smaller allies also performed very well, and Sharad Pawar praised the party allies over their performance. In a press conference after the trends became clear, Pawar said, “The NCP and allies will meet after Diwali to discuss future course of action.”
In the last five and a half years, Congress lost its Maharashtra voter base to BJP. But, NCP has been able to save itself from Modi-Shah juggernaut. In 2009 assembly election, the party won 62 seats but its tally was reduced to 41 in 2014 assembly election. However, the party reached near 2009 level once again by improving its tally in 2019. In the last Maharashtra assembly, NCP was the fourth largest party in the state, but, now it has become a third-largest party, with a marginal trail from Shiv Sena- second-largest party.
The credit of NCP’s spectacular performance goes to Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar. The 78-year-old leader campaigned across the state tirelessly despite his worsening health conditions.
In Satara constituency of the state, Sharad Pawar gave a fiery speech, “The rain god has blessed the NCP for the October 21 election. And with the blessings of the rain god, Satara district will create a miracle in Maharashtra,” said Pawar during the speech.
BJP has fielded NCP turncoat, Udayanraje Bhosale, Shivaji Descendant from the constituency. Taking jibe at turncoats, Pawar said, “Defections had not been accepted by people, with some exceptions.”
In the last few months, more than a hundred prominent leaders left NCP to join the ruling coalition. BJP National President- Amit Shah famously said that if the party opens the door for opposition leaders, Sharad Pawar would be the only leader left with NCP.
NCP’s Mumbai unit chief, Sachin Ahir has already joined Shiv Sena. Chitra Wagh, prominent woman face of NCP, former minister and President of the women wing of the party had also quit the party.
The politics in Maharashtra is more personality-driven than in any other state. The leaders command the loyalty of the constituents and the voters identify with leaders rather than with party or ideology. So, the individual leaders who are trusted by the voters of a region are very important.
Most of the popular regional leaders of NCP have left the party to join BJP or Shiv Sena. Sharad Pawar is the only party leader with a cross-state appeal, and therefore party was relying on him for electoral success.
Pawar did not disappoint the party and took head-on BJP-Shiv Sena alliance. CM Fadnavis even criticized the party for relying on the 78-year-old patriarch, to which, Pawar replied with ‘Abhi to main Jawanhoo (I am still Young). The fighting spirit of Pawar is laudable. Pawar is corrupt and opportunist as an individual but as a politician, he has got exceptional skills.
Pawar family is arguably the most corrupt political family in the country and might be next big fish after former finance minister Chidambaram. The Bombay High Court had asked Mumbai police’s Economic Offences Wing to register FIR against Ajit Pawar and 70 other in Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSCB) scam. The bench of Justices S C Dharmadhikari and S K Shinde told EOW to register the FIR within five days.
There is no doubt that Pawar is corrupt and master of crony capitalism. But a politician, he is way better than dynasts like Rahul Gandhi who have no belly to fight.