Saffron setback

Published : Jun 05, 2009 00:00 IST

NCP candidate Supriya Sule with her father and party chief Sharad Pawar at an election rally in Baramati. The party won eight seats, one fewer than last time.-PTI

NCP candidate Supriya Sule with her father and party chief Sharad Pawar at an election rally in Baramati. The party won eight seats, one fewer than last time.-PTI

Maharashtra Unexpected win By Lyla Bavadam

THE results of the 15th Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra were so unexpected that even veterans were taken aback. Of the 48 seats in the State, the Congress contested 25 seats and won 17 while its alliance partner, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), fought from 21 and retained eight. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) contested 25 seats and won nine and the Shiv Sena, its ally, was in the fray in 22 seats and won 11.

This is the first time that the Congress and the NCP are sharing a Lok Sabha win. In 1998, when the Congress defeated the Sena-BJP, which had won the 11th Lok Sabha elections in 1996, the NCP was not formed. The Congress won 33 seats in 1998 and the BJP four and the Sena six.

The reason then was anti-incumbency sentiment. Voters had had enough of the Sena-BJP, which represented the State in the Lok Sabha and which had also won the Assembly elections. The Congress had an easy victory in the 1998 Lok Sabha elections. The Sena-BJP returned strongly in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections and has retained its hold until now. For all the parties, the Lok Sabha elections were a testing ground for the upcoming Assembly elections.

The party that needs to pull up its socks is the NCP. Its tally actually fell from nine seats in 2004 to eight this time unlike the Congress, which improved its total by five seats. The NCP particularly needs to watch out for its western Maharashtra stronghold, where it has received a jolt: it lost crucial sugar-belt seats such as Ahmednagar, Maval, Shirur, Shirdi and Kolhapur.

Delimitation affected the outcome in western Maharashtra. The exercise resulted in the shifting of reserved constituencies with the result that the Republican Party of Indias (RPI) Ramdas Athavale could not contest from his safe Pandarpur seat. In the newly created Shirdi seat, he lost to the Shiv Sena, which made deep inroads into the Congress-NCP stronghold. This is significant for a number of reasons.

Primarily an urban party, the Sena had never made an impact in the rural areas except in the Konkan, and that too because its cadre (former mill workers of Mumbai) had settled there. The party has penetrated not only rural constituencies but also western Maharashtra the bastion of the Congress and the NCP. And, while doing this, the Sena has defeated the most public political personality of the Dalit community in the State. However, to go further the Sena will have to do some serious thinking.

The power struggle within the party resulted in the loss of Raj Thackeray and Narayan Rane. Both have proved themselves in varying degrees outside the party. To add to the Senas woes, its relationship with the BJP has been rocky for a while. The Lok Sabha elections exposed the fractured nature of the RPI. The party was hanging by a thread, literally being kept alive by the Congress and the NCP. After Athavales defeat, whether the RPI will rally around for the Assembly elections later this year is to be seen.

Considering its age and size, the role Raj Thackerays Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) played in ensuring the defeat of the BJPs Ram Naik and Kirit Somaiya, and the victory of the Congress-NCP in all the six Mumbai seats is phenomenal. Ironically, the Congress Milind Deora (Mumbai South) owes his political survival to the MNS.

Delimitation meant that Deora had to face new areas that had mill-worker populations. The Sena wisely fielded Mohan Rawale, a man who would appeal to these voters. Deora was doubly besieged because Meera Sanyal, the high-profile banker and independent candidate, caught the fancy of his regular voters, though in the final analysis she did not have any impact.

Into this scenario stepped the MNS candidate, who played havoc with the Senas votes to the extent that the Sena candidate actually trailed behind the MNS. This strategy of the MNS was applied in other parts of the State with similar results. Again, for the Assembly elections, Raj Thackeray has a powerful bargaining tool. He has the option of using this to be reunited with his parent party or to forge an alliance with one of the main parties.

The other former Sainik who is trying to show his strength is Narayan Rane. It is his first election as a Congressperson. While his son, Nilesh Rane, ousted the Senas Suresh Prabhu from one of the Konkan seats, Narayan Rane is yet to demonstrate the sort of power that Raj Thackeray managed. The Congress performed particularly well in this round. In 2004, the Congress-NCP combine won only one of the 11 seats in Vidarbha, but this time the Congress took five seats.

The biggest surprise was Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patels victory from Bhandara with the largest margin in the State. The swing factor here, apart from delimitation, was the special attention given to the agrarian crisis, especially farmers suicide and the reworking of the special loan waiver.

Mayawatis Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) contested 47 seats but did not win even one. Unlike 2004, when BSP candidates played the spoiler in the Vidarbha region, this time the main battle was between the Congress-NCP and the Sena-BJP. Voters seem to have recognised this and concentrated on voting for one or the other alliance.

Independent candidates did better than ever before. This is the first time that Maharashtra will be sending three independents to Parliament. It is expected that they will lend support to the Congress.

GUJARAT Close battle By Anupama Katakam

MODIS Magic did not succeed. It did not fail either. In Gujarat, the BJP captured 15 seats, while the Congress won 11.

It has always been a straight fight between the Congress and the BJP in this State. Although the BJP has come out the stronger contender in four successive general elections, the Congress has never been far behind. Once again, in the 2009 elections, it was a close battle with the BJP emerging victorious, though a sweep was expected.

Among the surprises were former Chief Minister Shankarsinh Vaghelas defeat in Panchmahal and the Congress victories in the Saurashtra region, particularly Rajkot, where the BJP has repeatedly won the general elections.

The BJP was expected to do staggeringly well in Gujarat as Chief Minister Narendra Modi had been playing a crucial role in ensuring that the State would be a BJP stronghold. He had even declared that the party would win at least 22 seats.

Modi could perhaps be held singularly responsible for the BJP achieving this number. The Modi Magic appeared to have worked in some places. In the last general elections, the BJP won 14 and the Congress 12. Not wanting to take any chances, Modi made every effort in the past five years to prove that Gujarat meant the BJP. Yet, Modi has not come out a winner. In fact, he is being held partly responsible for the BJPs debacle in the elections.

In recent years, it had become increasingly apparent that he aspired to move out of Gujarat and into national politics. Maybe he felt that by showing the party that he could pull off a major victory in Gujarat, the party would give him his rightful share in the national limelight.

He tried to shake off his communal tag and consolidated his position in the party by using development as his plank. Such was the BJPs faith in Modi that it entrusted 78 Lok Sabha seats to him 48 in Maharashtra, 26 in Gujarat, two in Goa and two in Daman, Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.

In the run-up to the polls, several BJP leaders projected him as the next Prime Minister or as a Prime Minister in waiting. This did not seem to go down well with some senior party leaders. The BJP has a strict hierarchy and anyone breaking it will not be tolerated.

The differences that developed owing to Modi could have ruined the partys image, political observers say. On the day of the results, the BJP admitted that projecting him had backfired on the party.

Actually, neither Advani nor Modi is acceptable and predictable as Vajpayee was. They are like loose cannons. The impression people have is that they can do anything at any time, said Achyut Yagnik of the Centre for Social Knowledge and Action, an Ahmedabad-based non-governmental organisation. Modi will remain a satrap for some time. His ambition to play national-level politics will suffer a setback. Until the BJP reinvents itself, his national career is on hold.

It was Modis magic formula that won the BJP several of its seats. While choosing candidates, Modi took into account a combination of factors: loyalty to him, caste identity, and the candidates position in the power structure of the constituency. Surat, Bhavnagar and Panchmahal are some of the constituencies where the formula apparently worked.

Always popular with the affluent and the middle class, Modi has worked hard at wooing lower-income groups, the poor and the rural population. He understood the strong caste and community dynamics of the State and chose candidates accordingly. Minorities in Gujarat do not trust him at all and he makes no apologies for his Hindutva politics. His vibrant Gujarat plan also seemed to have worked with the larger populace.

Since the Congress seemingly has no presence in the State, it was expected that it would be decimated. Yet, by winning Porbandar and Rajkot in Saurashtra, and Bardoli and Valsad in the tribal belt, the party has made a comeback of sorts, said a political observer in Vadodara. It isnt clear, however, whether it is because the Congress actually did something or this was an anti-establishment, anti-Modi wave, he said. It could also be that the party found the right candidate.

The Congress is structurally weak in this State. There is a lot of factionalism within the party here and there is practically no leadership. It is, however, an election-fighting machine and somehow manages to emerge unscathed from the polls, said Yagnik. They are also guaranteed the 9 per cent Muslim vote.

Furthermore, in Gujarat, there is no third front. The voter supports either the Congress or the BJP.

Before 1996, the Congress had a reasonably good track record in Gujarat. In fact, until then, the State saw several Congress-led governments. The emergence of the saffron brigade eventually put an end to its position.

While the Congress made some gains, two Union Cabinet Ministers, Vaghela and Narainbhai Rathwa, lost their seats from Panchmahal and Chota Udaipur respectively. Another veteran, Madhusudhan Mistry, also lost from Sabarkantha. Yagnik said that in Gujarat, it was difficult to categorise a region as being loyal to a particular party because of continuous criss-cross of candidates between parties.

The verdict, therefore, is quite scattered. The BJP retained Kutch. In Saurashtra, the BJP won three seats and the Congress four. In the north, the BJP and the Congress took two seats each.

In the eastern part, which includes the tribal belt, the BJP won in five areas and the Congress took three seats. And in the central region, which includes Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and Vadodara, the BJP won in five constituencies while the Congress won in two.

Among the main contenders, Harin Pathak of the BJP won from Ahmedabad East, former Chief Minister Madhavsinh Solankis son, Bharat M. Solanki, won from Anand for the Congress, and Congress old-timer Dinsha Patel took the Kheda seat.

GOA Fifty-fifty By Ravi Sharma

POLITICALLY unstable Goa which saw 14 governments between 1990 and 2005 played by the form book in the 2009 parliamentary elections, giving the two main national parties, the Congress and the BJP, a seat each.

Much as expected, the BJP managed to retain the North Goa or Panaji parliamentary constituency while the Congress retained the Catholic-dominated South Goa or Mormugao constituency. Interestingly, both seats were won by narrow margins.

In North Goa, the BJPs sitting MP Shripad Naik defeated the ruling Congress-NCP coalition candidate Jitendra Deshprabhu by 6,471 votes. The Congress Francisco Sardinha retained his South Goa seat, defeating the BJPs Narendra Sawaikar by 12,516 votes. In the 2004 parliamentary elections, Naik won by 56,213 votes, while Churchill Alemao of the Congress defeated the BJPs Ramakant Angle by 50,524 votes. Alemaos resignation from the Congress in 2007, thanks to the topsy-turvy nature of Goan politics, forced a byelection to the South Goa seat, which Sardinha won against the BJPs Wilfred Mesquita by 40,902 votes. Alemao was in the news for all the wrong reasons during the build-up to the 2009 elections.

Back in the Congress after merging his Save Goa Front with the party, Alemao wanted his daughter Valanka to be nominated for the South Goa seat as a quid pro quo. But the Congress high command was in no mood to oblige. This resulted in a rebellion by Alemao, who is the Public Works Minister in the Congress-led Digambar Kamat government.

The Congress Sardinha was also not helped by the presence of Mathany Saldanha of the United Goan Democratic Party, a political outfit that draws its support primarily from the Catholic population, a section on which the Congress banks heavily. The BJP, which fielded a grassroots worker, was also able to secure votes from the growing number of Hindu migrants.

Sardinha faced a tough battle even in Salcete taluk where the Congress is traditionally strong. Except for the Nuvem and Velim constituencies, he did not get the kind of leads the Congress hoped for. The Navelim constituency, a Congress stronghold, represented by Alemao in the State Assembly, gave Sardinha a lead of just a few votes. But the BJP, which managed leads in its traditional constituencies of Sanvordem, Sanguem, Canacona, Mormugao and Vasco, failed to overtake the Congress, much to the relief of Kamat.

Talking to Frontline, Kamat said that he was relieved to have retained South Goa despite all the problems and that the people had faith in his government. I moved from pillar to post in the entire constituency in a bid to secure victory.

In North Goa, Naik, seeking a third consecutive victory, overcame the anti-incumbency factor, the tag of being an ineffective parliamentarian, and a bid by a motley group of legislators led by the independent legislator Vishwajeet Rane to unsettle the BJP.

But the Congress-NCP coalitions inability to finalise a candidate quickly enough cost it dear. The NCP, despite having two legislators from Assembly segments that are part of the North Goa parliamentary constituency, failed to find a suitable candidate. With hardly two weeks for campaigning to end, it was left to the Congress to ask Deshprabhu to resign from the party, join the NCP and contest as the coalitions candidate.

Said Kamat: We were hurt because the NCP does not have adequate organisational strength and also because we choose a candidate at the last minute. He also dismissed Alemaos tantrums as a thing of the past. Kamat has surprisingly managed for almost two years to run the government in Goa. Accusing the Congress of using money to win the elections, Naik said that the people still had faith in him and the BJP.

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment