01 May 2017 | Last updated 11:58 PM

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Is Maharashtra’s politics moving beyond caste-based issues?
Rohit Chandavarkar | Friday, 24 February 2017 AT 10:36 PM IST
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The lesson all the political parties should learn from the verdict of civic polls of 2017 in Maharashtra is that people of this progressive and industrialised state are now fast moving beyond the usual caste-based politics in the state.

All the mobilisation built around caste issues in the run up to these polls, all the inflammatory incidents such as removing age old statues of some writers from public places and all the strong arm tactics of certain vested interest groups has not worked and people have voted in the hope that development and good governance should be ensured in this state.

Devendra Fadnavis has clearly emerged as the trustworthy face that the urban middle class feels can lead Maharashtra on the path of development and economic growth.

The BJP did very wisely recruit all the elements from other parties based on their ability to win elections and it was clearly a strategic move, but it seems that people are still so fed up of the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party’s non-performance and corruption, that they decided to excuse the BJP despite the party going ahead with the recruitment of some criminal elements ahead of these polls.

The opposition in Maharashtra thought that the Maratha rallies which were taken out in the past few months were a symbol of anger against the BJP’s rule in the state. The opposition also believed that this was perhaps anger against the BJP’s decision to put a ‘brahmin’ leader as the Chief Minister, however this premise has totally been proved wrong by the public. The way people have backed the BJP in these polls shows clearly that masses in Maharashtra do not care anymore about the caste of the Chief Minister, they just want performance.

The other important factor in these elections was the taming of the Tiger! In Mumbai people have voted for the Shiv Sena to some extent, but have not given the Sena a clear mandate in fact BJP’s numbers have zoomed in much higher proportion. Shiv Sena had 75 members in the house last time and now they have 84 members while the BJP’s number has grown from 31 to 82!

So Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray’s dreams of ruling the Brimanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) single handedly have been shattered totally and the Sena’s inflated ego has been punctured by the BJP.

Parties like the Congress and NCP have to now get into serious introspection about where they want to head from here. By 2020 over 45 per cent population of Maharashtra will be living in the cities. The NCP and Congress’ appeal still remains revolving around rural politics and rural issues. They still think on caste lines. The verdict in these elections is beyond castes.

Congress and NCP are not media savvy, they do not engage with the young urban voters and have no connect with the rising urban higher middle class. It seems that this urban higher middle class came out in very large numbers this time to vote and that has resulted in a gain for the BJP. Now Congress and NCP have to wake up to this reality or at least in urban areas they will perish for sure! 

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