In the 2019 Maharashtra assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena alliance won a majority in the 288-member house. But both the parties failed to match their electoral tally of the 2014 assembly elections. The BJP won in 105 constituencies this year, as opposed to 122 seats in 2014, and the Shiv Sena clocked 56 seats, seven less than the previous election. Meanwhile, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party combine—the state’s main opposition parties—surpassed their 2014 performance. The Congress won 44 seats, two more than in 2014, whereas the NCP clocked 54 seats, compared to the 41 it won in the previous election.
Ever since the result was announced on 24 October, fissures started to appear in the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance, leading to speculation that the combine may not form the government. In an interview with Tushar Dhara, a reporting fellow at The Caravan, the senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan, a former chief minister of Maharashtra and a minister of state in the prime minister’s office, discussed the political implications of the assembly election results.
Tushar Dhara: What political message does the Maharashtra electoral verdict convey?
Prithviraj Chavan: The message is clear—people have voted on the performance of the [chief minister Devendra] Fadnavis’ government in the last five years. It is a very dismal performance, in spite of the fact that he had absolute power. [During] Manohar Joshi’s government [between 1995–1999] and then the fifteen years of the Congress-NCP rule, there was always a chief minister and a deputy CM, and the important portfolios were shared. [Fadnavis] was the chief minister by himself, there was no deputy CM. All the important portfolios were with the CM. He was absolutely unhindered and unfettered.
The farm sector continues to underperform. The agricultural growth-rate continues to plummet, and farmers’ suicides continue unabated. All the promises to farmers remain unfulfilled. Unemployment is a major challenge. No new investment is happening on the ground, although there are tall claims. If you ask about the proof of where the investment is, or district-wise details, there is a big silence. Maharashtra has lost its pre-eminent position as the number one industrial state in the country. Mumbai has lost its pre-eminence as the financial capital of the country. Not a single infrastructure project got completed in the last five years.
People realised that nobody was talking about the performance of the Fadnavis government during the election campaign. The national leaders who came here—particularly, the prime minister and the home minister—kept talking about Article 370 and NRC [National Register of Citizens, a list of Assam’s Indian citizens] and VD Savarkar [the Hindutva ideologue] and Ram Mandir. They did not talk about a single issue that concerned the people of Maharashtra—livelihood, bread and butter issues. So, the opposition took [this] to the ruling party, saying, “why are you not discussing the current challenges before that state? Handling of the drought, handling of the flood, disaster management”—everywhere, the government and ministers were found wanting. The people have expressed their dissatisfaction with the BJP-SS government by pulling their numbers down.