Elections in Maharashtra are to be held on 21st October. The results will be declared on 24th October. While UPA has finalized the seat pact, BJP and Sena are still negotiating hard. Smaller parties like VBA and AIMIM are also vying to make a mark.
In the first opinion poll released for the state by ABP, BJP led NDA is expected to retain power and romp home with a thumping majority (205 seats). It shows that even in case the alliance is called off between BJP and Sena, BJP would win a simple majority on its own (144 seats). To note NDA was leading in 227 assembly segments in general elections, thus it is losing 10% due to local factors.
So, what are the factors which are favouring a BJP return in the state.
- National mood in favour of BJP and Modi
The achievements of the central government within 100 days of power have helped BJP to maintain the momentum built during general elections. The abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir has cemented Modi’s position as the best Prime Minister ever. Amit Shah the brain behind this bold step is being hailed as the Sardar Patel of this generation. He is being touted as the successor to Modi eliminating all competition. This has helped the party keep alive the issue of nationalism, which received a boost after air strikes during general elections.
- Leadership ratings of Fadnavis
We have seen in state elections and national elections that the party whose leader is ahead in the race for ‘Who is Best suited to be CM?’ normally goes on to win the elections. At a time when more and more people are considering the leadership factor while going out to vote this assumes significance. In a recent ABP poll, Fadnavis leads the pack by far for the most preferred CM. Fadnavis is the choice of 39% of respondents, with Ashok Chavan and Sharad Pawar trailing by a big margin with 5% support each.
A note of caution though, the existing CMs do get a notch or two higher ratings in such surveys because of the top of the mind recall value and in situations where the opposition has not named a CM candidate. His soft, non-controversial and development-oriented image gives a boost to his rankings.
- Implementation of Modi government schemes
One of the major reasons for BJP’s record-breaking performance in general elections was the success of schemes implemented by Modi for the upliftment of the poor. From opening of bank accounts to construction of pucca houses to toilets to universal health scheme to gas connections, the government was credited with bringing a positive change in people’s lives.
Maharashtra under the leadership of Devendra Fadnavis has been at the forefront of realizing Modi’s dream of sabka saath sabka vikas.
- Under the PM Awas Yojana (Gramin) the state has constructed 5.6 lakh houses.
- The state has distributed cooking gas connections to 44.4 lakh households.
- 67 lakh farmers have benefitted from the PM Kisan yojana in the state, 2nd highest in the country.
- 5 crore accounts of poor have been opened leading to their financial inclusion.
- Under the Mudra yojana, 85,870 crores of loans have been provided to entrepreneurial women, self help groups and small businesses (3rd rank in India in disbursements).
- Steps of DF – farm loan waiver, Maratha reservation
Fadnavis is not only resting on the laurels of the Modi government. His deft handling of the farmers agitation and Maratha reservation stir has shown him as an able administrator. The government has announced farm loan waiver of 3.1 million marginal farmers costing the exchequer Rs. 30,500 crores to provide relief from agrarian crisis. Like any other such scheme, this is also facing some implementation issues.
The long pending demand of Marathas for reservation in government jobs and technical institutes have been fulfilled by providing 16% reservation. This has also tested court’s scrutiny. Marathas with 33% of state population can play the role of kingmaker in the elections. The Jal Yukti scheme has provided water in drought areas of Vidarbha. The Jalyukta Shivar scheme which aims to make villages free of water scarcity has had good success, with more than 11,000 villages declared drought free.
- Exodus of Congress / NCP leaders
A string of high-profile names has left the Congress and the NCP and joined the BJP and Shiv Sena. Around 15 MLAs have jumped the ship including close confidante of Sonia and Pawar. Heavyweight members of the Maratha community, traditional supporters of UPA, have also been leaving. Three of Shivaji descendants – Chhatrapati Sambhaji Raje, Shivendra Raje Bhosale, Udayan raje Bhosale – have joined the party tilting the poll calculus in its favour. Congress party’s Leader in assembly Radhakrishna Patil also joined the BJP.
Poor short term as well as long term prospects faced by opposition leaders is forcing many of them to change colours. This has considerably weakened the UPA. Its Leader of Opposition, it is having difficulty in finding good, resourceful candidates willing to contest in a no-hope situation. The parties are also struggling for funding and have been plagued by infighting (Sanjay Nirupam – Milind Deora in Mumbai). Corruption cases against Ajit Pawar have also mellowed him down to some extent.
- Split of opposition vote
The UPA has failed to induct the maverick Praksah Ambedkar into the alliance despite VBA’s spectacular debut in Lok Sabha elections where they bagged 14% vote share. Not only that VBA and AIMIM which contested together have split. AAP is also putting up candidates in 50 odd seats, mostly urban. Raj Thackeray’s MNS has once again been denied seats from UPA quota despite working hard to expose Modi in general elections. Then there are the SP-BSPs of the world eyeing the minority and dalit vote bank. The index of opposition unity is poor, split of anti-BJP vote will help the party in triangular contests on many seats. If BJP and Sena split like in 2014 state polls, others are expected to get the second highest number of seats (64) as per ABP survey.
Not to say that all is hunky dory! Farm crisis, demand of full farm loan waiver, farmer suicides, floods, economic slowdown, unemployment, water scarcity are some of the issues facing the state. But as we have seen in previous polls, it’s the intent and ability to solve problems which is the key for voters. Many voters today feel the leadership of BJP (both at state and center) is best suited to solve the problems.