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'Calling Pawar anti-national a negative vote for BJP'

October 24, 2019 18:31 IST

'Modi underestimated Pawar.'

IMAGE: Many had written off the Nationalist Congress Party's chances before the elections, but Sharad Pawar has proved that he is the Maratha strongman for all seasons. Photograph: PTI Photo
 

The Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena have won the Maharashtra assembly election and no one is surprised.

However, what has shocked many is the fact that they have not won as many seats as predicted by the exit polls. In fact, the BJP-Sena victory margin has reduced as compared to the 2014 election results.

Another surprising factor was the performance of the Nationalist Congress Party, especially when most had ruled the party out of the competition because many senior leaders had left the NCP to join either the Sena or the BJP on the eve of the election.

Party strongman Sharad Pawar, who turns 79 on December 12, has roared back and according to the latest trends, which show the NCP bagging more seats than senior partner Congress, the leader of the Opposition will be from his party.

"This result shows the BJP's confidence is lost in Maharashtra," Prakash Pawar, a professor of political science at the Shivaji University, Kolhapur in Maharashtra, tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com.

How do you view the election results?

This is a semi-final result. The NCP voting is very high and they have captured a good number of seats. The BJP's voting percentage too is good, but the problem is they are in alliance with the Shiv Sena.

This result shows the BJP's confidence is lost in Maharashtra.

In Western Maharashtra, some Maratha leaders from ( the sugar) co-operatives have supported the BJP so they have spread in Western Maharashtra. The big problem is that the Congress is not in a state to compete against the Shiv Sena and the BJP.

Why are you calling it a semi-final?

Because the BJP is against the Shiv Sena and vice versa even though they are in an alliance.

So do you predict that this BJP-Shiv Sena government will not last for five years?

Maybe this government can possibly fall. In the district of Mumbai, there are 36 seats where the Shiv Sena is dominant and in the same way in Thane and Palghar the Sena is dominant.

The NCP-Congress gave tactical support to the Shiv Sena so that they could win.

Sharad Pawar and NCP are the biggest gainers in the election.

The problem with the NCP is that it is a rural party. It is not a semi-urban or urban party.

Sharad Pawar has a big hold in cities like Pune, Kolhapur, Solapur and Beed. They have gained big in these places. Ever since Sharad Pawar started his politics in 1978 his potential in Maharashtra was of 50-60 MLAs. At best he can get 70 MLAs.

In spite of his advanced age, Sharad Pawar has done well.

Two factors worked for him. The first is that young people supported Sharad Pawar.

Praveen Gaikwad is a big leader in the Sambhaji Brigade and he is a friend of Sharad Pawar. The Sambhaji Brigade -- the young workers and students -- are very active on social media and this helped Pawar.

Dr Amol Kohle (the NCP MP from Shirur), Amol Mitkari, Dhananjay Munde (the MLA from Parli) and Rupali Chakankar are OBC leaders. So the voting pattern of the NCP is of Marathas and OBCs, which is very different from the BJP and Shiv Sena.

You think that the viral photo of Sharad Pawar giving a campaign speech in pouring rain worked with the voters?

Even if that did not happen Pawar would have won. Sharad Pawar accepted the symbol of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and the utopia of Shiv Swaraj of Shivaji Maharaj. This has an appeal in Western Maharashtra and Marathwada region. So this photo was not an issue.

The descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Udayanraje Bhosale, who contested on a BJP ticket in the Lok Sabha bypolls has suffered a huge defeat.

He was unpopular and people only voted for him because of Sharad Pawar. He is not a mass leader. He always won in the name of Sharad Pawar.

And after he quit, this benefited Sharad Pawar. Bhosale left the party because he wanted to be on the right side of the ruling party.

So many NCP leaders left Pawar, but he has still managed to win big.

The leaders who left Pawar did not have good relations with him; it was sometimes good, sometimes bad.

Pawar always stopped them from doing wrong and therefore they felt it was time to move on. In co-operative societies many were involved in corruption cases and therefore they shifted to the BJP.

These people did not seem to gain from the BJP.

You cannot say that as the voting percentage of the BJP must have increased in Western Maharashtra because of these new entrants.

IMAGE: This photograph of Sharad Pawar addressing a rally drenched in the rain went viral, with many applauding the senior leader for his commitment. Photograph: @PawarSpeaks/Twitter

Do you think the enforcement directorate calling Sharad Pawar for questioning backfired on the BJP?

Delhi does not understand the fact that people of Maharashtra were looking at Sharad Pawar as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. This is for two reasons.

Firstly, it was about the self-respect of Maharashtrians. He had highlighted the issue of Shiv Swaraj's imagination to the voters. And he said in his meetings that Maharashtra will not bow down before Delhi.

Modi missed this point and so did Amit Shah.

Devendra Fadnavis being from Nagpur did not understand the self-respect issue. If their self-respect is hurt they work very differently, which Delhi does not understand.

So did Modi underestimated Sharad Pawar's strength in Maharashtra?

He underestimated Pawar and made one big mistake. Modi called Pawar anti-national, which was a major problem.

Modi did not call him anti-national directly, but in his speeches asked why Pawar was not supporting the abrogation of Article 370. This hurt the people of Western Maharashtra.

Was Article 370 not an issue in the election?

It worked two ways. One way it was positive and one way negative. In Mumbai region, the BJP won because of nationalism as there are many non-Maharashtrian voters.

And it hurt the BJP in (rural Maharashtra) because Modi called Pawar anti-national indirectly on the issue of Article 370 and this created a negative vote for the BJP.

Were farmers's suicides an issue in this election?

It was not a big issue to go against the BJP. Money was directly transferred into farmers's accounts under various government schemes. Also, in the co-operative sector, many subsidies were given by the government to farmers and owners. So this issue did not matter much.

But Pankaja Munde lost to the NCP.

This game is of Devendra Fadnavis. He targeted three leaders in the BJP -- Pankaja Munde, Vinod Tawde and Eknath Khadse. He wanted them out and he got it done. The NCP did not defeat them or sideline them, Fadnavis did.

Sharad Pawar is now almost 80. What is the future of the NCP?

The NCP's future is linked to Sharad Pawar's life. This is the truth. The NCP is a Maratha and OBC group. They feel Delhi is against them. And till date OBCs have not got power and they will revolt one day or the other.

Even Marathas do not get their due respect in Delhi. So even if Sharad Pawar is there or not there, this group will be against the ruling party in Delhi. Earlier, the NCP was against the Congress and now they are against BJP.

Whoever is in Delhi, this group will be there forever present and anybody can lead this group.

But the Marathas got reservation.

This is temporary and it can go anytime. This is made an issue and not an honest issue.

Why did the Congress fare badly while the NCP did well?

The NCP had a leader and the Congress had no leader. The Congress did not show any leadership face. Whatever is happening in Delhi, the same is happening in Maharashtra too.

SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF / Rediff.com
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