'Hindus have never been polarised across Maharashtra in any state election.'
Are the relations between the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party, in power in Maharashtra for a year now, heading for breakdown?
A newspaper advertisement, released on Tuesday, June 13, 2023, touted Chief Minister Eknath Shinde as the voters' preferred option to rule Maharashtra, in what was as a not so subtle message to the BJP and its deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Political commentator Abhay Deshpande, in an interview to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com, decodes the political developments in Maharashtra as it heads into an election year.
- Part 1 of the Interview: 'Shinde's sending a message he is not a puppet'
Newspapers say that some Shiv Sena ministers are being told to resign by the BJP central leadership. How far it is true?
This news is being spread more from Mumbai than Delhi.
There are two ministers in the Shinde government who are from his party who are under the radar. Their style of functioning is being questioned by the BJP, especially Agriculture Minister Abdul Sattar.
He is becoming a bone of contention between the two parties, but to say that out of nine ministers of Shinde's party five will be out is too much. The BJP will never put this kind of pressure on Shinde's party and even if they do, the former will not agree.
Shinde's MLAs are telling BJP leaders that our chief minister may be ruling because of them, but if they had not broken off from Uddhav Thackeray, the BJP would be sitting in the Opposition.
Both of them are equally important to each other and the BJP has gone ahead with this political game plan only to ensure they do not get a major dent in the coming Lok Sabha elections.
They need each other so they will not disturb the government's stability.
What are the Shinde government's achievements in the year that they have been in power?
Definitely, they are doing a lot of development work.
The central government is releasing a lot of funds to the state which was stopped during the MVA government. This development work, however, is getting overshadowed by the MVA's attack on the government.
They are constantly putting the government under pressure by highlighting how they cheated Uddhav Thackeray and the slogan 'pachchas khoke ekdum ok (The Rs 50 crore alleged bribe for each Shiv Sena MLA who joined hands with the BJP)' has caught the people's imagination.
The good work of the government is getting overshadowed by these allegations.
There is no denying that lots of funds are being released.
This week, Rs 1,500 crore (Rs 15 billion) allowance has been released for farmers. The salary of gram sevaks in gram panchayats has been increased from Rs 6,000 a month to Rs 16,000. All this good government work is being overshadowed by the MVA's politics of cornering the Shinde government.
The coastal road of Mumbai or the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link work is going on with great speed and the effects of these works will surely be seen during the elections, but right now the MVA has ensured that people do not see these things by cornering the government on corruption issues.
Why is the state government not holding the Mumbai municipal elections?
The MVA combination of three parties coming together is a very potent combination. Besides that, the sympathy for Uddhav Thackeray is an important factor which the BJP knows.
If you see the past five elections in Maharashtra, you will find the BJP has never got more than 31 percent votes.
In the 2014 assembly elections they won more seats for sure, but there were four parties contesting: Shiv Sena, Congress, BJP, NCP. The votes got split and therefore the BJP got the advantage.
They then got 123 seats out of 288, but now, if all three parties come together, mathematically and politically, the MVA is on a much stronger turf.
Why did the Hindutva wave or for that matter the Modi wave not sweep the Maharashtra assembly elections like in Gujarat or for that matter Uttar Pradesh?
In Maharashtra, BJP cadres were always lesser in number. They came to power on the back of the Shiv Sena in the initial days. Later on, they got big NCP and Congress leaders in their fold to spread their party's reach in the state.
They always got a vote percentage ranging from 27 percent to 31 percent in Maharashtra.
Secondly, communal politics does not work to a great extent in Maharashtra.
After the Ram Janambhoomi movement and the Bombay blasts of 1993 the elections that followed had an impact on the BJP's election prospects, but at that time too they did not win a majority.
They had to take support from Independent MLAs to form the government despite the factors of communal polariation, bomb blasts and criminalisation of politics becoming a big issue.
And the next elections of 1999, 2004 and 2009 were won by the Congress and NCP.
It was only after the Modi era that things changed in Maharashtra, but not because of Hindutva politics, but more so because of the aspirational class which Modi was representing.
This Hindutva politics also does not work in Karnataka state elections as Lingayat-Vokkaliga caste politics works more. In a similar manner, Maratha and OBC politics works in Maharashtra.
Hindus have never been polarised across Maharashtra in any state election.
Why has Uddhav Thackeray got so much sympathy from the public?
His party was broken and his symbol was snatched. This has led to his popularity graph rising on the upper scale much more than even when he was CM of Maharashtra.
It is the tendency of the public to give sympathy to the one who is cornered.
When a scooter hits a bicycle on the road, the public sympathy is for the bicycle rider. The same is the case when a car hits a scooter, then the public sympathy is for the scooter rider.
Whoever is weak gets sympathy and Uddhav has got that sympathy for now, but how long he will be able to sustain it and whether he can convert it into votes or not is too early to say.