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The Rediff Special/Kumar Ketkar
'Uddhav's leadership will be challenged'
October 16, 2004
On October 11, in a chat with rediff.com, I predicted that the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance in Maharashtra will lose in the October 13 assembly election.
Also see: 'Congress-NCP may lose election'
I must admit my assessment has been proven wrong. First of all, I underestimated Shiv Sena's second and third-rung cadre's discontentment with their leaders.
This result is also a decisive vote against the parties that propagate Hindutva as a political ideology.
Ms Sonia Gandhi's charisma has not only consolidated her party's position in Vidarbha and Mumbai, it has helped it make in-roads in Konkan, a Shiv Sena stronghold.
Sonia Gandhi's sacrifice of not accepting the prime minister's post after the Lok Sabha elections earlier this year, has been appreciated everywhere, but the Maharashtra results show that her sincerity has even wider appeal.
Her sincerity appealed not only to Muslims and women who voted for her, but also to the middle classes. They have accepted her.
The Maharashtra assembly results prove that the middle classes are no more in the grip of sectarian issues propagated by the Shiv Sena and BJP. In this election, the Maharashtrian middle class distanced itself from parochial and chauvinist views.
If I take a fresh look at the results, I must say that the people of Maharashtra have grown beyond the Hindutva campaign that held them in a spell for over10 years. This verdict is against communalism and jingoism.
Although in this election the Sena-BJP did not raise the bogey of Hindutva as much as they did in some previous elections, people identify them with this ideology.
Also, in Marathawada, Vidarbha and Mumbai, Dr Manmohan Singh's appeal went down extremely well. He carried credibility with the voters. He alone swung probably 14 seats in Congress' favour.
I think Sharad Pawar's campaign was tireless, sustained and high-powered. But I would still say that his tactic of striking a pre-poll alliance with the Congress worked more than anything else.
This verdict will push both the Sena and the BJP into a crisis. Uddhav Thackeray's leadership will be challenged. Several leaders will gun for Mahajan and would like to see him cut to size.
A few days before the polling on October 13, Tarun Vijay, the editor of Panchjanya, had expressed surprise at my prediction that the Shiv Sena-BJP will win in Maharashtra.
The losers will have to debate what kind of campaigns are working and which ones are not.
The new government will now toe Manmohan Singh's line -- walking the path of liberalisation and globalisation with greater zeal.
As told to Sheela Bhatt