In a week's time, Maharashtra will go to the polls. In the run-up to the elections, political parties should have focussed on a range of issues that plague both the urban and rural areas of the country's second-largest state. Instead of that, the political parties have only traded insults, innuendos and allegations. The Congress and the NCP, after running the state together for 15 years, are now behaving as if the other party is to blame for all the problems. The friends-turned-foes sentiment is also apparent in the Shiv Sena and the BJP.
This election was for the Sena and the BJP to win. Instead of concentrating on a strong campaign to wrest power from the Congress-NCP combine, they have done nothing but undermine each other. The Sena, with street corner muscle-flexing embedded in its character, compared the BJP and its pantheon of leaders to Afzal Khan of the Adil Shah empire. The parallels cannot be missed: The party's icon Shivaji had battered Khan and his army. The Sena fancies that it could repeat that feat with the BJP. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi ramped up his party's campaign in the state, the Sena stepped up its counter attack. It threatened dire consequences if the BJP carved out Vidarbha, a long-standing demand in the region and the party's electoral promise. To counter the Sena's appeal, the BJP has attempted to appropriate Shivaji. To this, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray caustically pointed out that those who did not even commemorate Shivaji's birth anniversary till the other day are now cynically exploiting his name. The Congress and the NCP too have been sniping at each other. But the acrimony between the Sena and BJP leaves others behind.
The trail of insults and counter-insults has led to a lot of bitterness. In the event of a hung assembly when results are declared on October 19, political parties will be forced to find common ground for post-poll alliances. The BJP hopes to win enough seats in the 288-member assembly to avoid any truck with a major party. The Sena too hopes it can lead a government without the BJP. The Congress does not fancy its chances. The NCP believes it can provide some seats to the single-largest party and work its way into power. The campaign has re-ignited the national versus regional, even sub-regional, agendas. It's a pity that the election is more a war of words and less a clash of ideas.