ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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How ‘National’ Beat ‘Regional’

The BJP’s victory in Maharashtra’s local elections exposes the weakness of regional parties.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) unexpected and spectacular showing in the elections to urban and rural local governing bodies in Maharashtra holds out many lessons for other “national” parties aiming to dominate states where regional parties are strong. Despite its break with the Shiv Sena, its long-standing partner on whose back the BJP has made deep inroads into Maharashtra, it surpassed the Sena. In large measure, this was also due to a weak and near-absent opposition comprising mainly the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).

An important aspect of the strategy of the BJP was to “welcome” in its fold a number of heavyweights from the NCP, the Congress and MNS at the opportune time. This helped the party to increase its total seats. Another ploy was the projection of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis throughout the campaign as the “face” of the BJP alongside Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s in hoardings and posters. This helped, as Fadnavis is not viewed by people in the state as the “typical politician.” The party was also successful in distancing itself from the actions of the Shiv Sena, notably in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), and in other political spheres where it has been a long time ally. Another factor that helped the BJP might have been the mobilisation of the Maratha community in late 2016 over the issue of reservations and the scrapping of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. While the Marathas face agrarian distress and joblessness, they are still seen as an influential section in the state’s political and economic life. Apprehensive non-Maratha voters gravitated towards a party that is not viewed as Maratha dominated. Fadnavis is among the few non-Maratha chief ministers to have led Maharashtra. On his part, Fadnavis has been reassuring the Marathas since the protests began and is attempting to be “all things to all people.”

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Updated On : 28th Aug, 2017
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