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

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BJP Replaces the Congress in Maharashtra

Long known for its Congress system, Maharashtra is transiting into a new party system under the leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The second consecutive victory for the BJP–Shiv Sena alliance in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 attributes a leading role to the BJP in the politics of the state. With the help of the National Election Studies 2019 data, this article tries to decipher the aspects of the still unfolding political dominance of the BJP and comments on the prospects of the state politics in the context of upcoming state assembly elections.

Despite its decline in the electoral politics at the national level, the Congress party had somehow survived in Maharashtra till recently and had therefore remained the main frame of reference for analyses of the politics of the state (Palshikar et al 2014). The frame cracked when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)–Shiv Sena alliance reported their first substantial victory in Lok Sabha and state assembly elections five years ago. If the 2014 elections marked a demise of the much dilapidated Congress system in the state politics (Deshpande and Birmal 2017; Palshikar and Birmal 2015), the recent electoral outcome seems to have confirmed the arrival of a new party system in which the BJP is likely to replace the Congress as the dominant player. These developments are in tune with the arrival of what Palshikar (2017) terms as the “second dominant party system” at the all-India level under BJP’s leadership in the post-2014 phase. And yet, just like the Congress system of yesteryears, the regional variations of the yet unfolding patterns of dominance of the BJP would be an interesting aspect of study for the students of Indian politics in the coming days. As far as the extended West is concerned, the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat were already known as BJP strongholds. Gujarat became invincible when the support base of the Congress party there depleted fast. Rajasthan, on the other hand, has still been able to maintain a somewhat competitive two-party system. After two consecutive victories of the BJP–Shiv Sena alliance, Maharashtra presents yet another variety of BJP dominance in the western region.

In Maharashtra, it is still a somewhat shaky dominance for the BJP that will soon be tested in the upcoming assembly elections scheduled later in the year. At the same time, the 2019 Lok Sabha election outcome in Maharashtra provides enough indications to the BJP’s leading role in the politics of the state hereafter. The party’s prominence in electoral politics is obviously visible in its consecutive electoral victories. Along with that, other factors like its prudent management of the pro-incumbency sentiment during the five years of its rule, clever manipulations of the long-term association with the Shiv Sena, and its ability to diffuse the potential opposition emerging as an outcome of myriad versions of identity politics in the state also contribute to the BJP’s political success. The BJP is also trying hard to establish new social equations in the state’s politics in order to challenge the Maratha dominance—a trademark of the earlier Congress system. At the same time, the party has also been trying to win over sections of Maratha leadership by accommodating local leaders of the two Congress parties within its fold and in that sense too is all set to replace the Congress!

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Updated On : 9th Aug, 2019
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