Voters defeated BJP in Maharashtra: it wasn’t ready to accept the mandate

It was voter sentiment that compelled Sharad Pawar to resist all kinds of pressure to fight back and finally sew an alliance that put the BJP in a corner in Maharashtra as well as across the country

Voters defeated BJP in Maharashtra: it wasn’t ready to accept the mandate
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Sujata Anandan (with bureau reports)

It was voter sentiment that compelled Sharad Pawar to resist all kinds of pressure to fight back and finally sew an alliance that put the BJP in a corner in Maharashtra as well as across the country. Modi is said to have personally tried to break the ice with Pawar but could not succeed because the seasoned Maratha leader sensed that it was the make or break moment of his entire political career.

His nearly hour-long meeting with Narendra Modi in New Delhi last week was less about a discussion on drought and farmers as he would have us believe. It was more about “respectfully” turning down Modi’s offer in person. Sources told this correspondent that Pawar politely told Modi that his party would be alienated from the voters and lose its entire mass base were he to be seen overtly allying with the BJP.

Pawar clearly feared, as much as Uddhav Thackeray did, that the BJP would swallow his party even if their ideological bases were different. It is yet another lesson to all those parties allying with the BJP merely to gain power in their states. No wonder then that Vinayak Prabhu, a Shiv Sena ideologue who spent some anxious moments in the past month, is baffled by what the BJP did. Referring to Pawar turning down Modi’s offer to join hands) was the time when the BJP, he feels, should have abandoned efforts to make a grab for power.

“That is when the BJP and its leaders should have let go. I was getting worried when our voters began to be critical of Uddhav for his brinkmanship. They thought he was betraying Hindutva. But after aligning with Ajit Pawar, who Devendra Fadnavis promised would be toiling in jail for the rest of his life, it was the mood of the BJP voter which swung the other way. Even they cannot now deny that the BJP will do anything for power,” he says.

“I don’t know why they were so foolish. We were afraid this triple alliance would collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. Now the BJP has given the alliance a reason to make it work for all of them.”


Prabhu does not mention it but the big question about the contradictions in the minds of most people is how the Congress and the Shiv Sena will resolve their commitment to secularism and Hindutva respectively. Perhaps they would achieve this by not mentioning the words at all.

But the answer also lies in what Pawar is said to have told Modi and what his party spokesperson Nawab Malik now says. “The Shiv Sena got soiled in the alliance with the BJP. Before that, they were committed to only Marathi asmita (pride).”

Regional aspiration is something all three parties can live with. In fact, they have sorted out the troubling communal issue by dropping both the words ‘secular’ and ‘Hindutva’ from their draft of the Common Minimum Programme. It now only says that all schemes will be implemented without any discrimination on grounds of caste and religion. As close to secular as you can get. As far away from communalism as you could be.

Perhaps, the BJP did all three parties a favour by trying to steal their government – they are now obliged to make it work. But more than that, it has set in motion by its own hands the return of the nation to a politics influenced only by commitment to the voter and unswayed by anything amounting to unprincipled greed, temptation and blackmail in the naked pursuit of power.

But after all the dust has settled, the BJP leadership might realise that it is not Pawar or Uddhav but how the Maharashtra voter voted that finally defeated their party.

The BJP was expecting to cross the halfway mark all in its own and win around 220 seats in alliance with the Shiv Sena in a House of 288. But if it got restricted to 105, it was clearly because the socialist, secular ethos of Maharashtra was resurrected in the people who have always resisted saffronisation despite the Rashtriya Swaysmsevak Sangh (RSS) being headquartered in the state.

It is this awareness that also kept the Congress MLAs from straying towards the BJP and brought NCP legislators scurrying back to Sharad Pawar after Ajit Pawar took them by subterfuge to the Raj Bhavan for his swearing in. Simply speaking, the BJP did not have the mandate from the people that it pretended it had.


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