A brief overview of the run-up to the Assembly Elections in Maharashtra.
On 13th of October Maharashtra will go for polls for the assembly elections. After the impressive performance of the congress a section within the congress was pitching in for the break with NCP and contesting assembly elections separately. Eventually the alliance has been worked out with a 174-114 seat sharing understanding being worked out with congress getting the larger share. Shiv Sena-BJP alliance has been swift in terms of arriving at the seat sharing understanding but the Maharashtra Navanirman Sena posses a serious threat to the Sena-BJP candidates ( especially in Mumbai,Nasik and Aurangabad) in terms of eating into their vote-share and subsequently helping the congress-NCP alliance. However, the possibility of MNS dividing NCP vote cannot be overlooked, which is in fact (rather curiously) acknowledged by Sharad Pawar himself in a recent public meeting. There is a lack of certainty about the traditional consolidated vote-bases of the established political parties remaining intact if one were to go by the voting patterns in the Lok Sabha Elections. There have been attempts by the extreme riht wing sena-BJP combine to achieve communal polarization to break into the traditional strondhold of the Congress-NCP in Western-Maharashtra. Ram Puniyani in his article in Teheleka has given a brief account of the incidents leading to the communal tensions in the Sangli-Miraj area during the 1st week of September.
The emergence of Republican-Left Democratic Front is a positive development in terms of a step in the process of the creation of a third force in the politics of Maharashtra. The space for the Broad-Left Progressive politics has been progressively dwindling over last two decades, which needs to be reclaimed. Whether RLDF would be able to reclaim this space remains to be seen and for that to happen it cannot remain as an electoral alliance but evolve through consistent struggles over people’s issues. (Looking at the past of the failed attempts of republican unifications and the ideological bankruptcy of f the republican leadership in clinging to their positions of power and being subordinate allies of the Congress-NCP, such a possibility remains bleak.) Whether RLDF would lead towards a larger unity of oppressed castes-classes is thus an open question.
In this context, an article written by P.Sainath for The Hindu provides a summary of the election campaign, commenting on the prospects of the two major alliances and the impact of MNS, BSP and RLDF. The article can be accessed here.
Another (disturbing) highlight of this assembly election has been the candidatures of the sons and daughters and close-relatives of the foremost leaders of the established parties. Prof.Suhas Palshikar provides a succinct comment on the tendency and necessity to treat the politics as a family business. The article can be accessed here.
Report in Frontline by Lyla Bavadam and Anupama Katkam focuses on the internal squabbles within the established parties leading to the rebel candidatures and marginalisation of the real issues of the peasants and urban poor. A cursory look at the election manifestos and the competitive promises of the two established alliances is sufficient to prove this.(This trend has persisted owing to the near-total absence of the significant left-democratic force.)
In this context it needs to be asserted that the Candidates of the left parties throughout the campaign have consistently focussed on the issues such as Public Distribution System,Implementation of Scheduled Tribes Forest Rights Bill,Issues of the urban Poor-Unorganised Labour Force. Apart from the Electoral success/failure the momentum generated through this campaign may help in creating the space for the assertion of the people’s issues and building a sustained left-democratic movement in Maharashtra. Nostalgic comparisons with the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement may well be out of place but nevertheless the ( however much fragile-fragmented,perhaps rhetorical and thus inadequate) re-appearance of the issues of the oppressed classes on the electoral map in itself is a ‘resource of hope’.in the political climate marked by the Politics of Identity and Communal Polarization.