A mid-term poll could be a bad idea
Closer home, the last time the Maharashtra assembly was dissolved early in its term in 1999, the ruling Shiv Sena-BJP went out of power despite a recent crippling split in the Congress. The two saffron allies are in a worse position now than they were thenmumbai Updated: Jul 19, 2017 00:04 IST
Little noticed by most political observers, Sharad Pawar is almost in a frenzy to rebuild his party at the grassroots. He is shuttling across the state in the recent weeks, meeting not just party workers but all significant people who could influence voting choices in these areas. He seems to have taken the rumours about mid-term polls in the state rather seriously, but I tend to agree more with his nephew Ajit Pawar, who has cynically dismissed all talk of such polls as hogwash and an attempt to cover up the BJP-led state government’s failures.
Even the Congress, which seems less visible than other parties at the grassroots, is somehow confident that they can go into polls with much better prospects. The Shiv Sena too said that it was battle-ready and now, strangely, the only party exhibiting nervousness about early elections seems to be the BJP, which has to be the one to take the call about dissolving the assembly ahead of its term. Party legislators are straining at the leash and bitterly opposed to rescinding their remaining term towards speculating against their fortunes and this has brought to the fore deep divisions within the party.
While anti-incumbency could always be a factor in elections, as state Congress president Ashok Chavan pointed out to me recently, the tide can be turned – but there has to be hope among your core voters and the surety of your own purpose visible to all. Hope is largely lacking among large sections in the state – the cause of farmers is nearly lost, cow vigilantism has made both Muslims and Dalits insecure (last week gaurakshaks did not spare even one of their own party functionaries in Nagpur) and now traders, the core voters base of the BJP, too have joined the ranks of the insecure following the flawed Goods and Services Tax and its faulty implementation.
I am surprised at how much goodwill the ruling party could give away by its ham-handed treatment of issues crucial to its survival. The biggest stumbling block, of course, has been the farm loan waivers and the government has fallen into that pit of its own making. The waiver was never going to work as a one-tme solution per se – they needed to take care of other issues with regard to farmers, like minimum support prices and subsidies on seeds and fertilisers, plus the strict control of unlicensed money lenders, among others. Now, not only are large sectons of farmers are not benefitting from the loan waiver, even the Rs10,000 offered for kharif sowing is flawed and causing more ire for its erratic implementation. The government is caught between the proverbial devil and deep sea and the devil is lurking in those deep waters, churning up a real froth - this Samudra Manthan is unlikely to yield amrit in a long time.
For, apart from realising unutilised funds from various departments, which I had mentioned in this column earlier, the government is now also contemplating a cut in development work across the state, and mostly from the cash-intensive public works department. That is a great recipe for disappointment of middle class voters, to whom roads and civic amenities are of utmost importance and the most visible signs of a functioning government.
Of course, BJP legislators have caught on to the disappointments all around – nearly half of the current lot of party MLAs are unsure if they will win their seats back again and would rather remain in power without rocking the boat so early.
That explains to me the complacence of the Congress and the NCP who always rinse every drop out of their term before going to the cleaners. For a mid-term poll is never a good idea anywhere in a parliamentary democracy even when you are upbeat, as was proven in the case of the Atal Behari Vajpayee government in 2004 when even the ‘feel good factor’ failed to return them to power. More recently, in the United Kingom, sitting Prime Minister Theresa May returned with less majority and more dependence on allies even after everything seemed to be going right for the Conservative Party for much of the election campaign.
Closer home, the last time the Maharashtra assembly was dissolved early in its term in 1999, the ruling Shiv Sena-BJP went out of power despite a recent crippling split in the Congress. The two saffron allies are in a worse position now than they were then. Is a mid-term poll, then, worth the risk?