Prithviraj Chavan Wins but congress lost Maharashtra elections

The Congress bids a sweet farewell after 15 years of ruling Maharashtra. As the Congress debacle in Maharashtra unfolds, Prithviraj Chavan has taken full responsibility for the same. Today is the day they hoped they would not have to see as the BJP takes over the mantle of the ruling party in the State winning 122 seats. The Congress walked away with only 42 seats, while the National Congress party (NCP) won 41 seats and Shiv Sena got 63 seats. Exit polls predicted not more than 50 seats for the Congress, while some exit polls forecasted an even lower figure. The bitter sweet rift with the NCP cost the Congress it’s face saving measure.

Reasons for the Congress debacle

There were 2 major factors that went against the Congress. The first was the internal conundrum amongst party ranks and the second was the rift with the NCP at a time when the BJP threatened to show its might in Maharashtra after their success story at the Centre in the Lok Sabha elections. The Congress could not cash in on the dramatic divorce between the 25-year-old alliance partners BJP and Shiv Sena. When the mess is an internal issue, what appears on the outside cannot be perfect.

The ghost of the past revisits the Congress as scam related issues that dominated the Lok Sabha elections giving the BJP a clear edge at the Centre also gave the Congress a major shove in Maharashtra. While there were the Education scam and Fodder scam, the Adarsh Housing Scam in November 2010 shocked the people of Maharashtra. Heads started rolling in the State Cabinet. The then Chief Minister Ashok Chavan was forced to resign while the names of 2 former Chief Ministers also surfaced in the scam with ongoing investigations by the CBI, Enforcement Directorate and IT Department.

To make matters worse, Prithiviraj Chavan who stepped down as Chief Minister of the State a few weeks ago, made a comment about the internal politics of the party. He emphasised how the party would have been relegated to the sidelines in State if he had taken action against the former Chief Ministers who were also the top Congress leadership accused in the scam. He retracted his statement made to a newspaper saying he was misquoted. Though the blunder made before the Assembly elections was already out in the open.

To top that, the NCP which held their hand to rule Maharashtra for 15 years broke away to contest the elections alone while the State slipped into President’s rule. The news of the split came to the fore barely an hour after the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance formerly ended. Maharashtra was thrust into a political chaos. What transpired was a 5-pronged fight for the top echelons in Maharashtra, the Congress, NCP, BJP, Shiv Sena and Raj Thackery-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) going solo.

None in Congress to match Modi’s charisma

With the internal rift between the Congress party’s State leadership, faces synonymous with Maharashtra politics, were nowhere close to creating a significant impact amongst the voter base that needed morale boosting in a State reeling under President’s rule. Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi failed to gain the voter’s confidence addressing six and four rallies, respectively. They were no match for the charisma that Narendra Modi sprinkled the crowds with during 27 rallies he addressed.

15 years of ruling Maharashtra that resulted in anti-incumbency has dealt a big blow to the Congress-NCP combine. The morale boost the Congress received during the Assembly bypolls in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat two months ago did little to weave a success story in Maharashtra. While there might not be a face of BJP announced to rule Maharashtra as yet, but with Modi’s stamp of assurance uplifting the confidence of the electorate, a battered Congress is relegated to the bottom of the ladder. Both Chavans’ wins may not be sufficient to provide the requisite boost at this stage.