Relying on its age-old tradition, the Congress, a couple of months ahead of the Assembly polls in Maharashtra dangled carrots to its core vote banks — a power subsidy amounting to Rs8,000 crore for farmers, reservation in jobs, education for Muslims and Marathas and a slum protection policy for the urban poor. As the poll results revealed the BJP replaced the Congress as the single-largest party in the state with 122 seats (a record of 20 years), it became apparent the party had lost its ‘core constituency’ .
The minority community in fact cost the party at least 10 seats with the Muslims, who preferred to try out AIMIM and even the Shiv Sena and BJP . Similarly, the Congress’ drought mitigation and subsidies given to farmers by the government failed to woo them.
In the party, leaders have started admitting the Congress needs to move away from ‘appeasement’ politics to its original development agenda as propounded by former PM Rajiv Gandhi and now owned by Modi. “Those calculations – of owning certain vote banks have become irrelevant now. What works is a development agenda and marketing of that agenda by a strong leader,’’ said Amin Patel, one of the five party legislators who retained their seat in the city.
Patel’s colleagues, including former MLAs Madhu Chavan in Byculla, lost out as the minority community chose to back MIM candidates. Three-term legislator from Aurangabad (East), Rajendra Darda came in third in his constituency, bereft of the support of Muslims. In Vidarbha, the BJP won 43 of the 62 seats.
“We suffered because of poor state leadership as well as this reliance on vote bank politics. If some of the decisions taken three months before polls were taken a year ago, we might have at least wrested 60 seats,’’ said a Vidarbha MLA.
The party’s legislators are hoping for a shake up in the party, but are not pinning their hopes on it.“With Prithviraj Chavan expected to become the leader of the legislative party and Leader of Opposition, we have little hopes that the party will realise that it needs to shed its old ways and embrace the new,’’ said a legislator from western Maharashtra.