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Regional Variations and Impact of Delimitation in Maharashtra

An attempt is made here to bring to the fore the politico-economic dimension of regional variation in Maharashtra and the possible impact of delimitation on the outcome of the 2009 assembly elections. Empirical observation shows that at least on paper, delimitation with its greater weight to the urban centres will benefit the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena alliance over the Nationalist Congress Party- Congress coalition. However there is a silver lining for the Congress - the strongest factor in favour of the Congress remains the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.


Regional Variations and Impact Congress (INC) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) coalition at the helm.
of Delimitation in Maharashtra As political competition in the state becomes more and more intense and the re
gional support base of the parties becomes
more and more volatile, the district has
Mala Lalvani become important as a political unit

An attempt is made here to bring to the fore the politico-economic dimension of regional variation in Maharashtra and the possible impact of delimitation on the outcome of the 2009 assembly elections. Empirical observation shows that at least on paper, delimitation with its greater weight to the urban centres will benefit the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena alliance over the Nationalist Congress Party-Congress coalition. However there is a silver lining for the Congress – the strongest factor in favour of the Congress remains the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.

This paper draws in parts on a study “Political, Social and Economic Overview of Maharashtra”. Financial support of the Institute of South Asian Studies, Singapore is duly acknowledged. Sincere thanks to Abhay Pethe, Ajit Karnik and Romar Correa for their comments and suggestions. The usual disclaimer applies.

Mala Lalvani ( is with the Department of Economics, University of Mumbai.

Economic & Political Weekly

October 3, 2009

he state of Maharashtra has been branded as a state with an impressive past but uncertain future (World

Bank 2002). The fact that it accoun ted for

nearly one-fourth of the gross value of India’s

industrial sector, earned it the reputation

of “power house of India”. Irresponsible

fiscal policy resulted in the state reeling

under a heavy debt burden – the debt-gross

state domestic product (GSDP) ratio stood at

26% in 2006-07. Interest payments cur

rently take up 16% of the revenue receipts,

which is a much improved situation from

its share being 22% in 2002-03. While the

fiscal situation in the state has shown some

improvement in the recent past, this article

draws attention to the persistence of

regional skewness in economic growth and

the political set-up of Maharashtra. It

attempts to bring to the fore the political

underpinnings of the regional imbalances

on the economic front. We find that while

Maharashtra’s overall growth performance

has not been adver sely affected by changes

in the incumbent party, the regional

progress or otherwise has most certainly

been affected by electoral outcomes.

1 Political History: The Regional Dimension

The political history of Maharashtra is clearly a story of Congress domination and a weak opposition. Two dents have been made in what could be termed as the Congress “monopoly”. The first was in 1979 when the Progresive Democratic Front (PDF) and Janata Party combine formed the government, but then too it was Sharad Pawar, an ex-Congressman, who became chief minister despite being the minority party in the coalition. The second stint of a non-Congress government occurred in 1995 when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena coalition assumed office. Barring these two phases, the Congress “fortress” has stood tall. Since 1999 the state has reverted to being a Congress loyalist with the Indian National

vol xliv no 40

(Datar 2004). Both the Lok Sabha and the assembly elections of 2004 suggest that coalition politics has changed the structure of competition in the state. A prominent feature of the 2004 election result that Palshikar (2004) emphasises is the regional variation. Clearly each of the administrative regions of Maharashtra has its distinct political history which appears to have had a bearing on its economic performance. It is this politico-economic link that we attempt to trace in this article.

The 2004 assembly election results of Western Maharashtra once again proved that it was a stronghold of the Congress-NCP combine. It reflected the trend set in the Lok Sabha polls of that year when the alliance won 10 of the 12 seats in the region although the vote shares of the two coalitions were not sharply different. The Congress-NCP combine got 43% of the votes while the Sena-BJP combine was close at heels with 42% in the assembly elections. Two important observations that one needs to make here – first, the progress of this region, especially the support to sugar cooperatives here has happened at the expense of other regions of Maharashtra and is directly linked to the fact that this is traditionally a Congress stronghold (Lalvani 2008). In fact, even a cursory look at a list of names of prominent leaders in Maharashtra’s politics, who have been associated with sugar co0peratives confirms that all the political heavyweights hail from Western Maharashtra, thus strengthening the argument that political clout of Western Maharashtra far exceeds that of the eastern region. These politically powerful sugar personalities when classified re gionally makes the skewness appear stark – 19 hailed from Marathwada, six from Vidarbha and a whopping 68, that is, 73% were from Western Maharashtra region alone! Also, the major reason behind this success of Western Maharashtra is the development of irrigation in this region (once again at the cost of other regions of Maharashtra), has led to greater development of


this region. The second observation to be an increase in votes in comparison to the made here is that vote share of the BJP-Lok Sabha election. The two Congress


Sena in the 2004 elections, which was parties were virtually wiped out in this reclose on the heels of the Congress-NCP, gion. The BJP-Sena alliance, however, should serve as a clarion call for the Con-gained only a very minuscule fraction of gress-NCP in the 2009 assembly election. votes in this region. The entry of BSP in the state of Maharashtra appears

Table 1: Vote Shares in Mumbai in Lok Sabha Election 2009 (%)

Constituency MNS Shiv Sena BSP BJP NCP INC to have complicated the politi-
Mumbai north 21.53 1.05 36.40 37.25 cal calculations of all other
Mumbai north-west 17.54 30.48 1.37 35.91 parties. In the Lok Sabha elec-
Mumbai north-east 29.22 3.73 31.53 31.97 - tions of 2004 the BSP contest-

Mumbai north-central 19.95 – 6.53 21.79 – 48.05

ed 46 seats and in the assem-

Mumbai south-central 18.09 30.36 3.08 – – 43.00

bly elections it contested in

Mumbai south 24.90 22.78 5.27 – – 42.46

272 seats. The BSP may not

In the Konkan region, Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri districts have been strongholds of the Sena-BJP alliance. It had won all the seats here in the 1999 assembly elections. In 2004 the Sena-BJP repeated the performance in Sindhudurg, the home district of former Sena chief minister Narayan Rane, but lost ground to the NCP in Ratnagiri by losing two seats. Mumbai city holds pride of place in Maharashtra. Mumbai has for many years now been seen as the fortress of the Shiv Sena and BJP. But the Lok Sabha elections in April 2004 saw the Congress challenging this dominance. The Congress fared reasonably due largely to dalit, Muslim and non-Maharashtrian votes. Konkan region as a whole contributes almost 40% to the state domestic product (SDP) of Maharashtra. However, within this region, development has been concentrated in Greater Mumbai, Thane and Raigad, while Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts in the region have been as worse off as any backward districts of Vidarbha or Marathwada.

Vidarbha was traditionally a stronghold of the Congress. The region voted for Indira Gandhi even during the country’s worst anti-Congress wave in 1977. But the Congress fortress began crumbling in 1985 with the growing influence of the BJP and the Shiv Sena. The demand for a separate state of Vidarbha has often provided a fertile ground for politicians to lure voters in this region. The Congress Party’s worst performance came in the 1995 assembly polls, when it won only 17 of the 66 assembly seats, with the BJP-Sena combine bagging 33. It was a photo finish in 1999, with the saffron combine winning 29 seats and the Congress and NCP sharing 31 between them. In the 2004 assembly election the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) registered have succeeded in capturing any seats but it certainly did cause a dispersal of Congress votes. The landslide victory of BSP under Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh, has added to its strength even in other states and it has emerged as a significant player in the political stage of Maharashtra. As far as economic development goes, this region has consistently ranked third. Barring Nagpur and Wardha all other districts of Vidarbha did not support the Congressled government in the 1999 and 2004 Lok Sabha and assembly elections. Once again the observation that Nagpur and Wardha improved their relative ranks on per capita income between 1993-94 and 2003-04 seems to point in the direction of Congress strongholds performing well. In fact, four districts where non-Congress candidates won the 1999 assembly elections, viz, Gadchiroli, Chandrapur and Akola in Vidar bha region have experienced a decline in their relative ranks on the per capita basis during the same period (Saban 2006).

Marathwada region is divided into 46 assembly and eight Parliament constituencies. The Congress held sway until the 1999 assembly elections, when the Shiv Sena emerged as the single largest party bagging 17 seats while its ally, the BJP, garnered nine. The Congress got just 10 seats while the NCP six. Independents bagged the remaining four seats. The NCP has little say while the BJP limits its resources and energy to its strongholds. People welcomed the Shiv Sena because it enjoys a reputation of putting its weight behind the common man and discouraging feudal culture. In this assembly elections of 2004 the Sena-BJP together managed 64% of the votes. This region ranks the last on economic progress. During the period 1993 to 2003, three

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October 3, 2009 vol xliv no 40

Table 2: Impact of Delimitation Region-wise responsibility to ensure liquidation of the

Region Existing Seats Post-Delimitation Seats

backlog. A subsequent committee which

Konkan 65 75

reviewed the indicators afresh in 1994.

Vidarbha 66 62

The committee has shown that between

Western Maharashtra 62 58

1984 and 1994, disparities had actually

North Maharashtra 49 47

widened across the regions. The regional

Marathwada 46 46

Source: Times of India, 14 September 2009. variation is apparent from the relative contribution of the

Table 3: Regional Variation: Relative Contribution to Gross State Domestic Product

various divisions to

(current prices, %)

Division 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07* state GSDP (Table 3).

Konkan 39.13 39.09 39.96 40.69 40.90 40.07 38.52 The share of Mum-
Nashik 12.49 12.77 12.63 12.61 12.65 12.75 13.88 bai alone in the Gross
Pune 22.00 21.75 21.19 21.39 21.94 22.34 22.77 District Domestic Pro-
Aurangabad 10.05 9.80 9.88 9.37 9.28 9.46 9.62 duct (GDDP) is seen
Amaravati 6.58 6.68 6.52 6.18 5.85 5.86 5.85 to be around 23%.
NagpurCoefficient of variation 9.76 73.17 9.90 72.83 9.81 74.72 9.75 77.17 9.38 78.50 9.52 76.60 9.36 29.85 Mumbai, Nashik and
Mumbai 21.89 22.56 22.76 23.40 23.72 23.10 21.40 Pune divisions together
Mumbai+Nashik+Pune 56.39 57.09 56.59 57.40 58.30 58.20 58.05 contribute almost 60%


districts (Aurangabad, Parbhani and Latur) in Marathwada (all three voted for the BJP-Shiv Sena in 2004 Lok Sabha election), experienced decline in their ranks based on per capita incomes (Saban 2006).

2 Regimes and Economic Growth

Two distinguishing characteristics of the economic growth in Maharashtra are its regionally skewed pattern of growth and its heavy dependence on the performance of Mumbai. In fact, this regional skewness goes back in time to 1960 when the state of Maharashtra was formed by merging the contiguous Marathi-speaking areas of Bombay State, Madhya Pradesh and Hyderabad State. Of these three regions, the area from Bombay State was better developed both in economic and social indicators though the Marathi-speaking region lacked a distinct business class of its own. The other two were less developed or relatively backward and for years, these regional disparities were carried forward. Western Maharashtra, with the dominance of a successful political entrepreneurial class that emerged later kept the region ahead.

This triggered in 1984 the setting up of the Fact-Finding Committee on Regional Imbalance headed by the economist, V M Dandekar. In 1994, three regional development boards were set up to give a statutory guarantee to the policy and process of removing regional disparities, with the governor having a special

Economic & Political Weekly

October 3, 2009

to the GSDP of Maha

rashtra. The contri

bution of Konkan (primarily because of

Mumbai) to the GSDP is the highest at

40%. Amravati’s contribution ranging be

tween 5% and 6%, is seen to be the lowest.

The coefficient of variation has stood

around 30%.

3 Impact of Delimitation

The political strongholds of individual

coalitions are almost certain to face some

tremors in forthcoming assembly elections

2009 on account of two factors (a) delimi

tation, and (b) the Maharashtra Navnir

man Sena (MNS) factor. The new political

boundaries that have been drawn up by

the Delimitation Commission would most

certainly have a bearing on future of the

forthcoming state assembly elections in

Maharashtra. In Maharashtra, it appears

as though the delimitation exercise will al

ter the power centre from the rural areas

to the new urban areas of Maharashtra.

The urban belt of Mumbai, adjoining satel

lite townships, Nashik and Pune that earlier

had 52 seats in the assembly will now have

73 seats ahead of the sugar belt which will

now have a reduced number of assembly

seats from 75 to 63. With nearly 100 out of

the 288 assembly seats in Maharashtra

now predominantly urban, the BJP-Shiv

Sena have an advantage over the ruling

NCP-Congress, at least on paper. But much

depends on how each party plays its cards as

well as on the emergence of new “spoilers”.

The district-wise change in assembly

seats under the delimitation exercise is

vol xliv no 40

tabulated in Appendix A. Mumbai is a classic example of how the changing demographic concentration of population could lead to a shift in the power centre in the assembly of Maharashtra. In the existing delimitation, the island city of Mumbai has 17 seats while the suburbs too have 17. According to the new delimitation the suburbs would get 26 seats and the island city would get 10 seats.

In the Lok Sabha 2009 elections the clean sweep by the Congress in Mumbai is clearly on the back of the surprise sprung by the MNS, whose candidate was runner up. The party-wise distribution of the vote shares in the various constituencies in Mumbai in Table 1 (p 16) clearly point to the potential threat that the MNS poses for the Shiv Sena.

Appendix A
District New Distribution of Seats Existing Change
(Delimitation 2002) Distribution of Seats
Nandurbar 4 5 -1
Dhule 5 5 0
Jalgaon 11 12 -1
Buldhana 7 7 0
Akola 5 5 0
Washim 3 4 -1
Amravati 8 9 -1
Wardha 4 4 0
Nagpur 12 11 1
Bhandara 3 5 -2
Gondiya 4 4 0
Gadhchiroli 3 3 0
Chandrapur 6 6 0
Yavatmal 7 8 -1
Nanded 9 8 1
Hingoli 3 3 0
Parbhani 4 5 -1
Jalna 5 5 0
Aurangabad 9 7 2
Nashik 15 14 1
Thane 24 13 11
Mumbai suburban 26 17 9
Mumbai city 10 17 -7
Raigarh 7 7 0
Pune 21 18 3
Ahmadnagar 12 13 -1
Bid 6 7 -1
Latur 6 6 0
Osmanabad 4 5 -1
Solapur 11 13 -2
Satara 8 10 -2
Ratnagiri 5 7 -2
Sindhudurg 3 4 -1
Kolhapur 10 12 -2
Sangli 8 9 -1
Grand total 288 288


The structure of the 26 seats in the suburbs of Mumbai as per the new delimitation exercise is such that most new constituencies would have a sizeable Hindutva vote bank, e g, Bandra has been broken up into Bandra East and Bandra West assembly seats. Bandra East has a significant minority population that is not sympathetic to Sena-BJP, but that makes Bandra West a safer bet for the Sena-BJP than before. Important constituencies which have been split are Bandra, Santa Cruz, Andheri, Amboli and Kandivali. Similarly south Mumbai till now considered a safe bet for the Congress is now facing a merger of the Shivadi, Worli and the newly constituted Byculla assembly segments. These seats have a substantial saffron vote bank and could dampen the Congress chances of scoring a win here again.

Opposition strongholds such as Opera House have been merged with the existing assembly seats in a fashion that will adversely affect the chances of the Congress. It is felt that Mumbai and its neighbouring Thane district, which include many satellite towns of the metropolis like Thane, Kalyan-Dombivali, Navi Mumbai and Mira-Bhyander, have seen a population explosion in the last decade-and-a-half and will send more than 60 MLAs to the assembly. These areas may well decide who will be the chief minister.

The delimitation exercise is going to throw a major challenge to the NCP too as 13 seats in its stronghold of Western Maharashtra have been merged with urban areas. Earlier, Western Maharashtra used to send 73 MLAs to the assembly.

On paper, delimitation is expected to benefit the BJP-Sena over the NCP-Congress as its leadership is considered urban. A region-wise break-up of the change in seats (Table 2, p 17) seems to further vindicate this hypothesis:

Post-delimitation the seats available to Vidarbha and Western Maharashtra (Congress-NCP strongholds) have reduced while that of Konkan (BJP-Shiv Sena strongholds) have risen. However, there is a silver lining for the Congress in this entire exercise. Most new constituencies in the suburbs have a significant non-Maharashtrian population. Also, the sizeable north Indian population in at least onethird of these seats will make it difficult for the Sena-BJP. However, if the recently concluded Lok Sabha 2009 elections is any indicator, what appears to be the strongest factor in favour of the Congress remains the MNS factor.


Datar, A (2004): “Of Regional Variations and Shifting Strongholds”, The Hindu, 24 October, http:// stories/200410240195 1500. htm (viewed on 12 September 2009).

Lalvani, M (2008): “Sugar Cooperatives in Maharashtra: A Political Economy Perspective”, Journal of Development Studies.

Palshikar, S (2004): “Issues in an Issue-less Election: Assembly Polls in Maharashtra”, Economic & Political Weekly, October.

Saban, A (2006): “Regional Structures, Growth and Convergence of Income in Maharashtra”, Economic & Political Weekly, 2 May.

World Bank (2002): Maharashtra: Reorienting Government to Facilitate Growth and Reduce Poverty, Vols I and II (World Bank).


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