BJP’s losses in MP, Chhattigarh polls an opportunity for Congress in Vidarbha
One of the state’s most backward regions and the ground zero of the agrarian crisis, Vidarbha shares its borders, cultural and geographical affinity with Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. It also witnesses a largely bipolar fight between the BJP and the Congress.Updated: Dec 14, 2018 21:24 IST
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) poll losses in neighbouring states of Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh spells out an opportunity for the Congress in Vidarbha, the eastern region of Maharashtra.
One of the state’s most backward regions and the ground zero of the agrarian crisis, Vidarbha shares its borders, cultural and geographical affinity with these two states. It also witnesses a largely bipolar fight between the BJP and the Congress and the winds of change in electoral arena in the three Hindi heartland states could have an impact in this region in the upcoming polls.
The big fight in this region comprising 10 Lok Sabha seats and 61 Assembly seats could thus turn to be deciding factor in Maharashtra as it goes to polls next year. Political observers and experts feel that the Congress could dent BJP’s bastion in Vidarbha, but only if it puts its game face on. In 2014 polls, the region was swept by the BJP. The saffron alliance picked all 10 Lok Sabha seats and the BJP, after a split with the Sena for the Assembly polls, won-two thirds of the Assembly seats here.
“The BJP swept this region in 2014 largely on the Modi factor as well as then eulogised Gujarat pattern of development. It was also a reaction of farmers against the old regime. In the past four years, that euphoria has died, especially in rural areas. Farmers are angry over BJP’s failure to keep its promises. The drought this year will only add to BJP’s difficulties,” said Vijay Jawandhia, agriculture expert.
“There is a strong sentiment against the ruling government, but the Congress will have to work hard if it wants to harness this unrest. They [Congress] are still not seen as entirely credible,” he said.
Congress leaders, however, believe these poll results are a turning point.
“There is a visible sentiment against the ruling government, largely in rural areas, owing to the deepening agrarian crisis. The Congress victory in the three states has reenergised and activated the organisation. It has also made Rahul Gandhi a competent contender to the PM post in the minds of commoners,” said Virendra Jagtap, two-time Congress MLA from Amravati district.
The party leadership has started to identify candidates for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, but the going may not be easy given “the moribund senior party leadership” here. Last polls, more than half-a-dozen big leaders and former ministers lost their seats, including former state party president Manikrao Thakre, former Union ministers Mukul Wasnik, Vilas Muttemwar, former state ministers Nitin Raut, Shivajirao Moghe and Vasant Purke. Other leaders who had shifted camps included Datta Meghe (who has since returned to the Congress), Ranjit Deshmukh and his son Ashish (who also switched back to the Congress recently) and Sanjay Deotale (who contested from BJP but lost).
“The Congress has several heavyweights in Vidarbha, but their on-ground presence has been virtually nil in the past four years. Activating the organisation within five months, starting with identifying potential candidates to compete with BJP’s electoral machinery, is tough,” said a senior NCP leader.
The names of Muttemwar, Sagar Meghe, Thakre as probable candidates are doing the rounds, but there are doubts whether they would prove to be formidable candidates, he said.
According to the seat-sharing agreement in the Lok Sabha, the Congress contests six seats and NCP four seats here. As opposed to this, the BJP will put its best foot forward in Vidarbha, given the party’s top brass, including chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and Union minister Nitin Gadkari hail from the region. Fadnavis told HT there would be no impact on the poll prospects in Vidarbha, even though the region shares borders with the other two districts.
Despite this, BJP legislators admit there is a negative sentiment among farmers, given the hardship faced by them in the party’s four-year tenure (three years of drought) which could go against them.
First Published: Dec 14, 2018 14:46 IST