Monday Musings: No central theme to campaigns at halfway mark - Hindustan Times
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Monday Musings: No central theme to campaigns at halfway mark

May 06, 2024 07:16 AM IST

The polls are an acid test for Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and his deputy and NCP chief Ajit Pawar as they have cast their lots with the BJP by splitting their respective parties

The Lok Sabha election in Maharashtra, being held on the backdrop of two major regional forces getting split, has become crucial for all stakeholders as it will determine the political future for many. For the first time, elections in the state are being held in more than a month-long stretch through five phases, two of which are over, while 11 constituencies will go to polls in the third phase on May 7, and phases four and five are scheduled on May 13 and 20.

LS polls are important for Uddhav Thackeray (R), Sharad Pawar as they fight for their political survival. (HT FILE)
LS polls are important for Uddhav Thackeray (R), Sharad Pawar as they fight for their political survival. (HT FILE)

The polls are an acid test for Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and his deputy and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Ajit Pawar as they have cast their lots with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by splitting their respective parties.

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If Shinde and Ajit Pawar do not win adequate seats, their leadership will come under question from MLAs and MPs who went with the two leaders.

It is also important for Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar as they go to polls amid questions about their political survival. The challenge is tougher for Thackeray and Sharad Pawar as they are out of power and have lost control of their parties -- Shiv Sena and NCP, respectively -- along with the original name and electoral symbol.

For BJP and Congress, the two national parties, polls are important in Maharashtra as it has the second highest number – 48 - seats in Lok Sabha after Uttar Pradesh.

For BJP, the outcome will reflect whether voters accept its brand of politics while for Congress, the battle is also between survival and revival as it could win only one seat in 2019.

Most experts say poll results in Maharashtra will be difficult to predict. This is because it has become difficult to gauge the mood on the ground among voters despite a high-pitched campaign from Mahayuti – an alliance of BJP, Shiv Sena and NCP – and Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA)t, an alliance of Shiv Sena (UBT), NCP (SP), and Congress.

The electorate seems to have made up their mind, yet there is a departure from previous norms as many are keeping their preferences close to the chest. This silence of voters on the ground may have complicated the task for political parties, as the absence of a central campaign theme obscures the detection of any potential wave.

There are many issues citizens are facing – ranging from drought in central Maharashtra, inadequate irrigation and basic development in Vidarbha, unemployment, rising prices etc. There has also been some massive infrastructure coming up in the state over the past few years. And there isn’t a major corruption scandal that come to light.

At the same time, the way Maharashtra politics has unfolded over the past five years, starting with the defiance of the 2019 mandate during the assembly polls, schisms in parties, and familial divisions, suggests a growing fatigue among the populace. Due to the excessive inundation of political news in the past five years, individuals have become desensitised to traditional campaigning methods, seeking instead more substantive dialogue and tangible solutions from candidates.

To be sure, the fatigue among voters hasn’t translated into less voter turnout. In the past two phases, turnout has been the same or slightly more in most phases compared to 2019. For the third phase too, Election Commission (EC) officials are confident of crossing previous figures.

On the political side, there isn’t a discernible wave favouring any single side across the state this time. Each constituency has evolved into a battleground in its own right, with both sides exerting maximum effort. Just a few months ago, many envisioned Maharashtra 2024 as a straightforward clash between two alliances. However, reality paints a different picture. The 48 electoral battles across Maharashtra are intertwined with numerous cross-connections, influenced by local dynamics, community affiliations, familial bonds, and vested interests.

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