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

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Farewell to Maratha Politics?

Maharashtra Assembly Elections

The dominance of Maharashtra's politics by the Congress and the Maratha elite had been weakening since 1995, and the triumph of the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party in the assembly elections seems to have finally brought it to an end. Who among the contenders - the Nationalist Congress Party, the Shiv Sena, the BJP, and a Maratha elite now at a distance from both power and its community - will occupy the space vacated by the Congress? More than the defeat of the Congress and the NCP, what marks a new era for the politics of the state is the desertion of Maratha voters from the two Congress parties. In the present scenario, the BJP seems poised to pick its leaders in the state and build a social coalition that will stand by it for some time to come.

The defeat of a sitting government need not draw much attention. But when it happens in a state that does not often see a change in the party/coalition heading the government, it stirs much expectation and speculation. More so, when the change could be a catalyst for regime change. The assembly elections in Maharashtra in October 2014 may have been crucial in this sense.

Politics in Maharashtra has long been known for the twin features of a dominant party and a dominant caste. Even when the Congress faced setbacks nationally, Maharashtra mostly withstood the all-India trends. In 1967, the Congress was not disturbed in the state by the upheaval in north India. In 1977, it went through a crisis, but was not uprooted as it was in most of the states of the north. In 1989 too, Maharashtra did not turn anti-Congress. Thus, shocks to the dominance of the Congress were either absorbed or became moderate when they reached Maharashtra. In the period of post-Congress politics, Maharashtra is one state where the Congress has been in power for three terms. It lost out in 1995 but came back to power in 1999, in spite of a split and an alliance with the faction that had split from it.

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