Around six months ago, when Maharashtra was in the grip of large protests rallies by Maratha community, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis looked tense, even hinting he may not last for five years as a chief minister.
On Thursday, when the results for civic bodies were out, it became clear Fadnavis has consolidated his position.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged victories not just in urban Maharashtra, it comfortably established lead in rural parts. In western Maharashtra, the region Marathas took by storm by coming out on streets in large numbers, the BJP’s performance has been stunning.
The party recorded unprecedented win in Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Solapur with a clear majority.
In Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad, the BJP unseated Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which enjoys the support of Maratha community, while in Solapur, the saffron outfit ended Congress’ 40-year rule by winning the civic body.
The party also swept the countryside by winning almost half of the total 25 zilla parishads that went to polls. The party won 398 seats against the 187, it had bagged in the previous elections.
The outcome of the polls indicated unprecedented mobilization of Marathas actually helping the BJP in dual ways in western Maharashtra and some other parts of the state.
While the community strongly backed BJP for the promises government made besides handling emotional issue by laying the foundation stone of Chhatrapati Shivaji in Arabian sea, the OBCs and dalits, too, were seen rallying behind the party hoping Fadnavis will turn down two key demands of Marathas – dilution of Atrocity Act and inclusion of Marathas in the OBC category.
According to political observers, the Maratha marches consolidated OBCs and dalits who decided to back Fadnavis government after it declined to dilute the Prevention of Atrocity Act, which provide shield to backward communities from any kind of atrocity by upper caste.
“We saw two kinds of polarization happening in the state. On one hand Maratha community came together and supported BJP for initiatives such as freeship to students and foundation laying of Chhatrapati Shivaji statue in Arabian sea, the OBCs and dalits too were polarized in favour of BJP,” said Prakash Pawar, professor, political science, Shivaji University.
The government also fast-tracked the trial in Kopardi case in which a minor girl from Maratha community was raped and murdered, triggering protests in the state.