How did Maharashtra politicians fare this year?
With so much on their plate, how did the top netas perform and what does the next year mean for them?mumbai Updated: Dec 26, 2017 00:59 IST
Politically, it was quite an eventful year for top politicians from Maharashtra. The year saw agitations by the farmers’ outfits for farm loan waiver and protest by Maratha community demanding reservation in government jobs and education.
There were elections to most civic bodies and district councils that were touted as mini-assembly polls. With so much on their plate, how did the top netas perform and what does the next year mean for them?
Here is a look:
Devendra Fadnavis: The chief minister’s year began with uncertainty over his future following massive Maratha community protest marches held across Maharashtra. There were speculations that the party leadership would have to sacrifice him if the politically influential Maratha community went against the government. Fadnavis managed to handle the protests well and ensured that they fizzled out. His political stature grew with the BJP winning civic and district council polls across Maharashtra.
The farmers’ agitation was another test for him but Fadnavis played a political gamble by announcing a loan waiver. The decision may backfire him in case majority of farmers don’t get their loans written off. He has given a push to the infrastructure projects, trying to build pro-investment atmosphere and aggressively promoting his water conservation scheme.
There is no challenge to him within the party in Maharashtra. In 2018, he will have his task cut out: implementing the plans and executing the infrastructure projects.
Uddhav Thackeray: The Shiv Sena chief continued to be a thorn in the flesh for the BJP throughout the year 2017. His party remained with the BJP’s ruling partner but it also continued to be the latter’s vocal critic. Significantly, the BJP continued to tolerate the Sena’s tirade as it didn’t want much trouble while running its government in Maharashtra.
The year also saw Thackeray managing to retain power in India’s richest civic body though with reduced numbers and some dependency on the BJP. He also dealt a body blow to estranged cousin Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena as its six corporators in Mumbai crossed over to the Sena. Will there be any change in the uneasy relations between the two saffron parties in 2018? If the BJP does well in assembly elections in Rajasthan, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, it is likely to ditch Sena in 2019 elections. If it doesn’t, the status quo will be maintained. So in any case, we will continue to hear Thackeray’s BJP-bashing.
Sharad Pawar: The Nationalist Congress Party chief has been a key figure in Maharashtra politics for over four decades and nobody can dare to write him off. His party is yet to fully recover from the rout it suffered in 2014 but Pawar could keep his flock together. Further, the local elections showed that the NCP still enjoys considerable support in rural and semi-urban areas.
The second half of the 2017 saw Pawar slowly tilting towards the Congress again. Not only did he criticize Modi for his campaigning in Gujarat but also praised Rahul Gandhi. In Maharashtra, Congress and NCP seem to be coming closer again. Many in Congress however continue to remain suspicious about him.
The Gujarat assembly elections where NCP and BSP candidates damaged Congress’ prospects in about a dozen constituencies is being referred to as latest example why the party top brass still doesn’t trust him.
Ashok Chavan: Will he stage a comeback in 2018? It wasn’t an exciting year for the Maharashtra Congress and its chief Ashok Chavan. Its performance in the civic polls was unimpressive. It also failed to corner the government over a range of issues including goof-up in the distribution of loan waiver. However, things are looking up for the former chief minister as the year comes to an end. First, he stopped the BJP’s winning spree in civic polls by retaining power in hometown Nanded’s civic body.
Last week, the Bombay High Court’s decision to turn down Governor’s permission to the CBI to prosecute him in Adarsh case has given him relief. However, he will have a tough task at hand if the party continues him in the post: rebuilding the party organization and preparing for 2019 elections to wrest power from the BJP.
Raj Thackeray: The MNS’ stocks dipped further early this year as it fared poorly in civic polls in Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Nashik where it had done well five years ago.
Raj has embarked upon a plan to revive the party but it seems to be a humongous task now. Can he do the impossible? 2018 may give us some idea.
Narayan Rane: The firebrand former chief minister finally quit the Congress and floated a separate political outfit, Maharashtra Swabhiman Paksh.
He has joined the BJP led NDA and expected to be inducted in the Fadnavis cabinet soon. Will it be good for his political career or turn out to be a bad decision? Let’s watch in 2018…