Maratha outfits had called for total shutdown in Mumbai and four other districts earlier this week| PTI
MUMBAI: Although it may appear that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is in a tight spot over the issue of Maratha reservation, the Marathas’ ‘mook morchas’ (silent marches) in 2016 and 2017 across the state had helped the BJP in Maharashtra.
The Maratha community had traditionally been with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). However, the politically charged atmosphere of 2014 coupled with the UPA government’s hurry in granting 16 per cent quota to the community just ahead of elections, which later got struck down by the court, forced the community to switch over to the BJP and the Shiv Sena and brought them to power.
However, fulfilling all the expectations of the community was not possible for the BJP government in the state which led to unrest. With the show of strength of the Maratha community, the BJP went defensive. However, in the several local body elections that followed the mammoth Maratha marches, the BJP emerged victoriously. Right from the Municipal Corporations to Zilla Parishad, Panchayat Samiti, Municipal Councils and even the Gram Panchayats the BJP emerged as the largest party in the state over past couple of years.
Political observers give the credit for this meteoric rise of the BJP to the Maratha route marches. Though the marches were against the government, they led to the consolidation of other social groups behind the BJP making the electoral victory easy for them, the political observers argue. Would the condition be the same even now, is the question.
The NCP had been the major magnet for the community in the recent past. Though the community had traditionally been with the Congress, it doesn’t form their core vote base anymore. For the Congress, Dalits and Muslims form the core voter base, which is why NCP-Congress alliance forms a socially and politically formidable force in the state politics and while the Maratha stir might benefit the NCP a bit, it doesn’t appear to be of any political benefit to the Congress.
On the contrary, the Maratha marches led to a counter-consolidation of other social groups which go directly to the BJP or the Shiv Sena. This has proved counter-productive for the NCP in recent elections at several places though it could attract a good chunk of the Maratha votes. State Congress president Ashok Chavan too indicated at the phenomenon recently. BJP government in the state deliberately fans Maratha stir thereby pitching one community against the other and reap the political benefit, he said.
The BJP and the Shiv Sena have most identical voter base and hence both of them stand maximum chance of benefitting out of the reactions of Maratha agitation in the OBCs and backward communities. However, the BJP appears to have been benefitted more due to its cadre base and election-ready grass-root organization. The Shiv Sena lacks the efficient election machine.
However, if Shiv Sena quits the government, it would be the biggest beneficiary and might aim to form the government in the state on its own. Would Shiv Sena take the big decision to reap the political benefit becomes a more important question?