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Maharashtra: Fadnavis Offers to Resign

Maharashtra: Fadnavis Offers to Resign

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, June 5: With less than six months to go for the state Assembly elections, another round of political upheaval is not ruled out in Maharashtra where the ruling alliance “Mahayuti” was badly outsmarted by the embittered Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) of the opposition bloc in the Lok Sabha elections.

The three-party “Mahayuti” alliance of the BJP, Shiv Sena led by the chief minister Eknath Shinde and Nationalist Congress Party led by Ajit Pawar ended up with only 17 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state, while giving a much improved performance beyond the expectations of most of the pollsters, the badly-battered MVA bagged 30 seats with one going to an independent.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP which fought in alliance with the then undivided Shiv Sena led by the party president Uddhav Thackeray had won 41 of the 48 seats, the BJP won 23 of 25 it fought in Maharashtra and Shiv Sena claiming 18 of the 23 it contested. The present deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis was then the Chief Minister.

Mr Fadnavis is believed to have played a key role in splitting the Shiv Sena and the NCP and bringing them in the “Mahayuti” fold to return to power by throwing out the MVA government about three years in its five-year term. As both the splinter groups managed to carry with them a majority of the then party MLAs, the break-away groups were recognised as the “real” Sena and NCP by the Election Commission of India and the speaker of the state Assembly and were allotted their original respective symbols.

But despite fighting with new names and new symbols, the voters decided who they think were the “real” Sena and NCP. The Sena faction led by Mr Thackeray and the NCP of Mr Sharad Pawar clichéd more seats than the Eknath Shinde and Ajit Pawar. NCP of Sharad Pawar and Mr Thackeray’s Sena won eight of 12 and nine of 21 seats fought as against one and seven seats Ajit Pawar and Shinde won of the 19 seats they contested. The most outstanding performance was by the Congress which won 13 of the 15 seats it contested while the worst was by the BJP winning only nine seats of the 29 it contested.

A consolation for Mr Shinde was that he retained his bastion of Thane where his aide Naresh Mhaske supplanted the sitting MP, Shiv Sena (UBT)’s Rajan Vichare while Mr Shinde’s son, incumbent MP Shrikant Shinde, retained the Kalyan-Dombivli seat for the third time with a handsome margin.

Accepting the moral responsibility for the party’s poor showing in the Lok Sabha elections, Mr Fadnavis has offered to resign as the deputy chief minister. “I take responsibility for the results in Maharashtra, as I was leading the party.” He added, “I am requesting the BJP high command to relieve me of my governmental responsibilities so that I can work hard for the party in the upcoming elections.”

The senior BJP leader said issues affecting farmers – who have emerged, some believe, as a problematic voter base for the saffron party since the national protests of 2020/21 – had affected the results. He also blamed the opposition for “false propaganda that the Constitution would be altered.” The reference was to the Congress claiming the BJP, if elected with the overwhelming mandate sought, would change parts of the Constitution, including dropping the word ‘secular’ from the Preamble. “Outright votes of Muslims and the Maratha movement (also) had an impact,” Mr Fadnavis forwarded as the possible reasons for his party’s poor showing in Maharashtra.

For all the bitter rhetoric of “diluted Hindutva” and “fake Shiv Sena” aimed at him by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mr Shinde, Mr Thackeray proved his Sena (UBT) faction was the “King of Mumbai.” as the MVA clinched five of the six Lok Sabha seats in Maximum City. Mr Thackeray’s gains suggested that the rank-and-file Shiv Sainiks still remained with him even as the former CM carved a new, inclusive vote-base for the Sena (UBT) which included minorities and Dalits.

The Congress’s revival in Maharashtra (it had won just one seat of 48 in 2019) saw the party storming the Vidarbha and Marathwada regions by winning seven of the 10 seats in Vidarbha. While BJP stalwart Nitin Gadkari held his own in Nagpur, the Congress juggernaut snared Chandrapur (in Vidarbha), where Pratibha Dhanorkar – the widow of deceased Congressman Suresh Dhanorkar – toppled Maharashtra Minister and senior BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar.

In Marathwada, Congress (and MVA) candidates staged a series of major upsets, as Balwant Wankhede trounced the BJP’s Navneet Rana in Amravati. Congress candidate Kalyan Kale emerged as a giant killer by defeating five-term incumbent Jalna MP, Union Minister Raosaheb Danve of the BJP. It was in the sugar heartland of western Maharashtra where the MVA’s turnaround bore the imprimatur of Mr Sharad Pawar’s canny strategising.

Besides Baramati where his daughter Supriya Sule retained the seat defeating Ajit Pawar’s wife, Mr Sharad Pawar got the better of his rebellious nephew Mr Ajit Pawar in the crucial Shirur Lok Sabha seat as well. Mr Ajit Pawar’s faction had to be content with just one seat – the Raigad constituency which was won by NCP State chief (Ajit faction) Sunil Tatkare. Pawar senior’s magic worked in Madha (in Solapur) as well, with the MVA’s Dhairyasheel Mohite-Patil staging a major upset over the BJP’s sitting MP Ranjitsinh Naik-Nimbalkar.

In Kolhapur, Maratha royal Shahu Maharaj Chhatrapati – a candidate suggested by Mr Sharad Pawar- triumphed over incumbent MP, the Shinde Sena’s Sanjay Mandlik. Even the Adivasi belt like Nandurbar in north Maharashtra, where PM Modi had held a major rally, turned towards the Congress with neophyte Gowaal Padavi scoring a victory over incumbent BJP MP Heena Gavit.

Speaking to reporters in Mumbai, Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) chief Nana Patole said the people of the country had taught a befitting lesson to the “arrogant, dictatorial government” led by the BJP. “Rahul Gandhi’s foot march changed the picture in the country and put the BJP in its place. I thank the people for their resolution to make Congress the number one party in Maharashtra,” Mr Patole said.

Following the MVA’s performance, Shinde and Ajit Pawar factions may be compelled to rethink whether their splitting their parent parties would be pardoned by the voters in the coming state Assembly elections.



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