New Wind for the Opposition in Maharashtra?

Recent developments have drawn the campaign discourse firmly into the sociocultural ground of Maharashtra.

 

Campaigning for Maharashtra legislative assembly elections is picking up pace as the voting is to be held on 21 October. Developments over the last couple of weeks have introduced an element of uncertainty in the electoral contest. The enforcement directorate’s notice to the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and his tactful response to mobilise resentment against the politics of vendetta has definitely found the ruling alliance on the wrong foot. But, even prior to that, relentless campaigning and skilful political messaging by the NCP president held the possibility of unsettling the calculations of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)–Shiv Sena combine. Why does this campaigning and messaging seem to find resonance among a section of the electorate, particularly the rural youth?

At a larger level, this is happening due to the altering/reconfiguring of the terms of electoral debate. The positioning of the BJP–Shiv Sena alliance has largely been around Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image, the abrogation of Article 370, and the Shiv Sena constantly raising the Ram Mandir issue to outflank the BJP’s Hindutva agenda. Not only have Amit Shah and other senior leaders of the BJP been touring Maharashtra speaking on Article 370, but it is also notable that Modi attacked Pawar for being “Pro-Pakistan” by apparently twisting his statements. This clearly indicates the focus on aggressive majoritarian nationalism and the intent of fighting the elections above and beyond Maharashtra. Countering this agenda—particularly when it is enjoying substantial popular support—would necessitate drawing the electoral contest back to the ground of Maharashtra, deep into its soil, so to speak. A careful look at Pawar’s campaigning and messaging would reveal multiple and subtle ways in which this can be done.

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Updated On : 15th Oct, 2019

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