Will political winds of change blow through Maharashtra in 2018?
2018 may see a lot of political strategies and twists in the state as all four major parties will start preparing for the 2019 electionsmumbai Updated: Jan 01, 2018 09:20 IST
If the Gujarat poll results in December indicated that 2019 elections will not be a one-sided contest, it is the polls to four states in 2018, three neighbouring to Maharashtra, that will set the political narrative in the state.
The poll results of Karnataka, controlled by the Congress, and three other states — Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan — controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), will change the political dynamics and strategies of the four main political parties in Maharashtra.
As such, the next year will be crucial for the BJP-led government if it is hoping for a second term. The Devendra Fadnavis government will have to deliver on its infrastructure and governance agenda even as it tries to stem agrarian crisis in its backyard.
The BJP will have to deliver even as its political opponents — the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) — and ally turned rival Shiv Sena start consolidating their political bases and tacitly work together.
For the main opponent, Congress too this year may be its sole chance for a revival post the overwhelming defeat in 2014 assembly and general polls.
This year the political momentum will gain ground in Maharashtra more than perhaps even 2019.
For starters, one can expect that after going separate ways owing to the debacle in 2014, the Congress and the NCP may join hands and stitch a pre-poll alliance. For the last three years, NCP chief Sharad Pawar has kept his party’s stance over support to BJP or Congress deliberately muddled.
“Despite Pawar saheb’s good relations with PM Modi, ideologically he is with the Congress. With Gujarat polls and Rahul Gandhi’s improved performance, the party chief had indicated to us that we will work with Congress. He also has good relations with the state Congress president Ashok Chavan. We have realized in local polls too that we have to come together to give the BJP a fight,” said a senior NCP leader and former minister.
The Shiv Sena that has been threatening to walk out of the government may finally do so ahead of the 2019 polls. “The Sena will definitely move out next year. They will also try to isolate the BJP by working out a tacit understanding with the Congress and NCP to protect its turf. The party will keep the option open for a post poll alliance with BJP,” said Prakash Bal, a political analyst. “The hunch is that Pawar will move towards Congress. This may get sabotaged by some regional Congress leaders but on the whole, there is a sense that winds are changing and Rahul Gandhi may be more in charge of the situation.”
The two unresolved issues, Maratha agitation for reservation and farm crisis will also play a big role in the state polity next year. For instance, increased mobilisation by Maratha community, backed by the Opposition could lead to further caste polarisation with the BJP then consolidating the other backward classes (OBC).
For the farm sector, a lot would depend on the monsoon next year and if the implementation of the loan waiver satisfies the farmers. “The farm discontent in Gujarat has a clear parallel in Maharashtra. And, there are indications that rural Maharashtra may not be with BJP as the urban middle class is with the party. So, rural issues will be highlighted further by opponents and Congress will make a play for its traditional vote bank. It is also Pawar’s last election in 2019, so his role will be crucial,” said Surendra Jondhale, also a state political analyst.
Political observers feel that a lot would depend on how the NCP chief plays his cards next year.
For the BJP-led government, beyond the politics, financial administration will require some deft handling. The 7th pay commission burden as well as loan waiver besides infrastructure commitments pose a big challenge for the government.