You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Congress, NCP need to stop fighting if they want to survive in Maharashtra

LiveMint logoLiveMint 26-05-2014 Makarand Gadgil

Few years ago, while having an informal chat with media, high-profile former general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the late Pramod Mahajan, pointed out that the BJP would win Nandurbar constituency in northern Maharashtra and would bag majority in Parliament on its own.

Mahajan’s prophesy came true at the last Lok Sabha elections. Indeed, the BJP snatched the tribal constituency of Nandurbar from Congress for the first time since 1951 and also secured a majority at the Centre.

Another constituency that Congress never lost since 1951 was Sangali in western Maharashtra where a plethora of cooperative institutions built by Congress politicians over generations never failed to deliver for the party.

However, the Modi wave destroyed both the citadels. Particularly, the loss of Nandurbar has come as a huge jolt for the Congress as it always considers this constituency as a symbol of recognition by the poor and downtrodden that the Congress is their party. In fact, in 1998, when Congress president Sonia Gandhi decided to enter into the politics, she chose Nandurbar as a venue of her first ever public rally. Also, in 2010, Nandurbar was chosen to launch the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s pet project, the Aadhaar or the unique identity project.

Before the current round of defeat, the Congress’s worst ever defeat was in 1977 when Janata Party managed to secure the majority on its own. However, in 1977, the Congress won 20 seats out 48 in Maharashtra, including Nandurbar and Sanglli. But this time around, the number has been reduced to two, down by 15. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) managed to win four seats in its bastion of western Maharashtra—half of the seats it had won in 2009.

The state units of the Congress and the NCP immediately began introspection to find out what went wrong. But the news coming out from these introspection sessions is not very encouraging for both the parties ahead of the assembly polls, slated in October-November.

Both the parties blamed each other for the defeat. The Congress introspection sessions were also used as an opportunity to target chief minister Prithviraj Chavan as many state Congress leaders consider Chavan as an outsider to state politics.

Chavan was a member of Parliament since 1991 when he entered into the politics and minister of state in the Prime Minister’s office (PMO) in the entire first tenure of the UPA and for one and half year in UPA-II before he was sent to Maharashtra by the high command.

NCP president Sharad Pawar used his party’s so-called introspection session unabashedly to tell Congress that his party is now the big brother in the state.

If both the Congress and NCP continue to target each other and remain busy in settling intra-party squabbles, they will end up wasting precious time before the assembly polls.

The results of the Lok Sabha elections show that the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance has lead in 231 assembly constituencies out of 288. Even if it is accepted that the assembly elections are a different ball game and they will not be a mirror image of the Lok Sabha polls, it’s will be virtually impossible to reverse fortunes in 145 assembly segments to win a majority for the fourth time.

Indeed, the voters of Maharashtra punished the ruling Congress-NCP combine for issues such as inflation, corruption in UPA II and overall lack of direction at the Centre, but they were more unhappy on the state government’s performance which has not been able to improve quality of life of both urban and rural population.

Despite spending `70,000 crore on irrigation projects during 2002-2012, state’s irrigation potential increased only by 0.1% and the agriculture sector has contracted by 2.1% in fiscal 2013.

On the other hand, the infrastructure projects in urban pockets have been progressing at a snail’s pace. The metro railway project in cities such as Pune and Nagpur are still on paper and even after a three-and-a-half-year delay, the first line of Mumbai’s Metro project is yet to start its operation. No one has a clue on when work on line II and III of Mumbai metro will begin.

The state government is trying to take credit for eastern freeway project and Santa Cruz-Chembur link project but these projects, too, were completed after long delays. Many feel that there is no sense of purpose in functioning of the government and it’s just going through motions.

Considering its poor report card, the only option the Congress and the NCP have is to stick together and try to salvage the situation and pray that the BJP-Sena commit some blunders ahead of the assembly polls.

More From LiveMint

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon