For a long time, people in Maharashtra were proud of the political culture in the state. The politics was largely civilised and based on principles and ideologies. It started changing more than a decade ago, but has reached an all-time low this Assembly election. During the past few weeks, politicians have shown there are no such things as principles when it comes to personal ambitions or self-interest. What is happening in the state this time is something completely unexpected.
Take the case of Uday Samant, a young legislator from Ratnagiri, who was made a junior minister by the NCP and was given a crucial portfolio such as urban development. As the atmosphere in Konkan did not seem to be favourable for his party, Samant did not think twice before shifting to Shiv Sena. Now he will contest the assembly election in Ratnagiri on a Sena ticket.
Sanjay Deotale, a Congress legislator, was made a cabinet minister with the charge of environment and cultural affairs. Since it appeared that he was not being re-nominated from Varora constituency in Chandrapur, Deotale went straight to the rival party, the BJP, and obtained a ticket for the election.
Sanjay Savkare, a first-time legislator from Bhusawal, was made a minister by the NCP some time ago. When he got a sense that the party may not re-nominate him, Savkare first approached Shiv Sena and then BJP, which has now fielded him as its candidate.
Prakash Shendge and Sambhaji Pawar were BJP MLAs from western Maharashtra. Angry with the party for inducting a few local leaders from the Congress-NCP, the duo also quit. Shendge is now an NCP candidate, while Pawar is in the Sena. In 2009, MNS MLA Ram Kadam had defeated late Pramod Mahajan’s daughter Poonam in Mumbai’s Ghatkopar (West) constituency. This time, the BJP rolled out a red carpet for him as he joined the party. It is not clear how local BJP workers will campaign for the same person who defeated their candidate the last time round.
Usually, politicians who don’t get party tickets turn rebels and contest as independents. This time, the rebels had options as the t hree- cor nered election became a f ive- cor nered contest because of splits in both alliances. Grabbing the opportunity, prospective candidates looked for options as their parties denied them tickets.
So a politician, who otherwise criticised the ‘communal agenda’ of the BJP, did not think twice before joining the party, or a candidate bragging about his Marathi pride took the mantle of Congress’ secularism overnight after bagging its ticket. It was not only individual ambitions and selfish motives behind shifting of the parties, even political parties lured prospective candidates, often poaching from rival camps.
The last few days were particularly bad. The two alliances broke and all four prominent parties had to hunt for candidates. No matter what they claim, none of the four parties were fully prepared for going solo, prompting a mad rush to field candidates. Finding a locally strong candidate, who could win became more important than loyalty to the party or its ideology. Criminal cases or cases of corruption did not matter.
As pointed out in HT’s report on Monday, almost all parties had fielded such ‘winnable’ candidates, even though some of them faced serious charges such as rape and murder. The NCP, which is promising a better Maharashtra, has fielded Dilip Wagh who was an accused in a rape case, while its other candidate, Gulabrao Deokar, is still behind bars in the Jalgaon housing scam case. Another accused in the scam, Suresh Jain is a Shiv Sena candidate.
Anil Gote who was in jail in the Telgi fake stamps case is now the BJP candidate from Dhule. Deepak Mankar, a controversial Pune politician accused of land grabbing, is an NCP candidate.
It is quite clear: In their hunger for power, individual politicians as well as parties are taking people for granted. But will this go down well with the voters?