The Congress and the NCP have ended up reviving the saffron forces in their internecine battle to occupy the space they believed was being created with the split in the Shiv Sena and the confusion in the BJP following Pramod Mahajan's death. Coming ahead of the assembly polls in three states now and in UP and Goa in another couple of weeks, the party’s poor performance in the corporation elections in Maharashtra threatens to demoralize its workers.
Officially, party leaders claim that the Maharashtra result would not have a bearing in the poll bound states. "One cannot extrapolate the scenario of one state on the other,’’ said Abhishek Singhvi, party spokesman. Margaret Alva, the AICC general secretary in charge of Maharashtra, argued in a similar vein.
But privately some leaders maintain that the saffron forces have got a "blood transfusion’’ that could boost the morale of the BJP workers in other election going states as well for the 2009 assembly and general elections in Maharashtra. Besides, it has also underlined the point that the Congress cannot take on the saffron forces on its own in the state which contributes 48 seats to the Lok Sabha.
The damage wreaked by the Maharashtra results, both parties are now likely to ensure that they do not repeat the mistake in the upcoming zilla parishad elections in the state or in nearby Goa where assembly elections are expected in a couple of months. The two parties are in government in the small state as they are in Maharashtra and at the Centre. .
Significantly, no Congress leader has so far accepted responsibility for the party’s failure in the corporation elections where the party lost even in Nagpur. And though it improved its tally in cash-rich Mumbai Corporation, it failed to dislodge the saffron forces which have been in power there for a decade now. The outcome of these two elections have, in
particular, given the party a jolt.
"We thought we will win in Mumbai because of the SS’s split and the disarray in the BJP…Our seats have improved. But Raj Thackeray’s party took away some anti-SS-BJP votes. Besides this, the muslim turnout was low, with only 35% of them voting. But the major reason was the division in the secular vote,’’ said
Alva. The secular vote stood divided as the Congress, the NCP, the RJD, SP and the RPI sought to move into the space they thought was being vacated by the divided Sena and the BJP..
Alva was in touch with Congress president Sonia Gandhi when the results came in. Other Maharashtra leaders, including state unit chief Prabha Rau, are now making a beeline for 10 Janpath to give their assessment of what went wrong with the party’s performance. This includes the fact that senior central leaders from Maharashtra either did not campaign or did so sporadically.
But a deeper analysis of the Maharashtra results is on the anvil. Alva is slated to go to Mumbai next week to discuss the issue with the state leaders and party’s election observers for the state.