With a toothless Opposition, a new contender and the electorate’s nod for stability over flux blowing wind into its sails, the Congress-NCP overcame anti-incumbency and rebellion and returned to power for a third successive term, something no combine has managed in 50 years of Maharashtra’s history.
The Congress won 82 seats (its best performance since 1995, and one that turned its poll partner into the second-largest party); the NCP won 62 (down from 71 in 2004) and the combine will form the next government.
The Opposition Sena-BJP was trounced like never before: it got 90 seats (Sena 44, BJP 46) — its worst outing in two decades.
“People seem to have voted for a stable government and they thought that the Congress-led government could be the better option,” said Uday Nirgudkar, political analyst and psephologist.
Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) won six seats in Mumbai (only the Congress, with 17, won more) in a rousing state poll debut. It usurped the Sena’s agenda, especially in the Mumbai-Pune-Thane-Nashik belt, routing it in its Dadar backyard, and winning 13 seats in all.
But the vote for stability can be a double-edged sword. Caught in the vortex of terror attacks, farmers’ suicides, spiralling prices and crumbling infrastructure, the premium on performance for the Congress-NCP must now be unprecedentedly high.
It will have to put an end to power outages, build infrastructure in cities and find a solution to the farmers’ problems.
Chief minister Ashok Chavan said: “It’s a verdict given to development work.” The outcome of these polls might see the power equations in Maharashtra’s politics reconfigured. Sharad Pawar’s NCP, now no longer the single-largest party, is unlikely to be able to bully the Congress.
The election results have also thrown up two leaders with statewide appeal.
Chavan could become the Congress’ face in Maharashtra. A Maratha politician, he is acceptable as much to the urban as the rural electorate.
Raj Thackeray may emerge as an option for young, middle-class Maharashtrians — traditional Sena supporters, some of whom had in the past gone even with the NCP. The MNS has emerged as a considerable political force. It won two more seats in Mumbai than the Sena.