Looking back at 2019 Maharashtra election

It has been a year since the 2019 Maharashtra election & its consequences which fascinated the country. The drama of the election remains unforgettable, for anyone interested I would recommend the book 36 Days.

For anyone interested in some analysis I would recommend Shekhar Gupta’s Cut the Clutters on the topic: here; here; here and here.

However, here are a few salient points from the election and the Maharashtra government

  1. Imagery matters. This image of the 80-year-old cancer patient Sharad Pawar braving the rains in Satara had a huge impact on voting in western Maharashtra.
  2. If someone has to stop the Hindutva Ashwamedh, strong leaders are essential. No one can win elections on sloganeering without strong & visible leadership.
  3. Caste still plays an important role in even progressive states like Maharashtra. One of the reasons for the defeat of BJP was the anti-Brahmin sentiment evoked by NCP by indirectly attacking Fadanvis’s caste.
  4. Ideology is important for political parties, but not as important as survival. Shivsena’s shift out of the NDA was for its survival and not for any other nonsense we hear.
  5. The NDA was well and truly over in 2019, the Akali’s leaving the NDA was in someways foreshadowed by ShivSena’s exit. Bihar election result and Nitish/Paswan reaction to the result would be something to watch out for.
  6. Forming a coalition government is easy, running an effective administration with conflicting interests and multiple power centers are tough. It would be a surprise if the SS-NCP-INC government completes its full term.
  7. All governments abuse institutions when in power and to nearly the same extent, not just the BJP.
  8. Regionalism can be a bulwark against Central hegemony. The region can bind what ideologies divide.
  9. Confrontational governments will find it difficult to work with an all-powerful central government. Non-BJP state governments can either take the Maharashtra route or the Andhra route (of YSR Jagan Reddy)
  10. The respect of the position of the governor (which never had too much respect I guess) has taken a very bad hit after the Maharashtra example.

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30 thoughts on “Looking back at 2019 Maharashtra election”

  1. “Caste still plays an important role in even progressive states like Maharashtra. One of the reasons for the defeat of BJP was the anti-Brahmin sentiment evoked by NCP by indirectly attacking Fadanvis’s caste.”

    I think this is where the BJP might have lost out. People point out that out of BJP experiments Khattar( Hryana) and Das (Jharkhand) were failed, while Fadnavis is somewhat successful. I would say the presence of Fadnavis would stymie BJP’ rise in Maharashtra as he is not really a fighter but an administrator. He is too soft/Passive and lacks the killer instinct of OBCs which Pawar has (somewhat slowed down by age) . Perhaps in highly urbanized state like MH that could still work, but had it been Hindu heartland he would have been eaten alive. He is the guy who leads well, but if you want to win back the state (sans Modi) you need a OBC/Maratha.

    Against an unsurmountable caste coalition (SS-NCP-Cong), BJP would miss Khadse and Munde, rather than Fadnavis who is more Chidambaram/Jaitley than Mamta. Let see how it goes.

    1. Saurav I would disagree.
      Fadanvis is a very down and dirty fighter. The way he has sidelined is opponents is very reminiscent of a certain Chief minister from early 2000s. Fadanvis fought the election very hard ; rather I would blame is fighting very hard and striking Pawar below the belt which caused Pawar ( old man) to come out all guns blazing. Fadanvis wanted to destroy the stronghold of Pawar Saheb – Loksabha as well as assemblies. Even in LS Sule constituency (my constituency) is one of highest spending from both NCP and BJP on a first time candidate. Add to that the EV notice which Pawar used to his advantage. Fadanvis is a long horse – rather there is a theory that he was attempted to be sidelined by Shah with his stooge Champa. The theory also goes on to state that Shah screwed up the BJP-SS alliance n not fadanvis. But that’s what it is. – SPECULATIONS.

      Fadanvis appears Liberal / cosmopolitian because most around 45years old Brahmins from MH RSS are very liberal compared to ROI.but they’re not politically Liberal.

      Fadanvis was very popular in the heartlands as well. But when it became Fadanvis v Pawar masses from Western MH chose pawar sahab.

      1. Let’s see. I would still say that sans modi, bjp cannot bank on fadnavis to win back the state. He is no munde with caste backing. Modi won them the state twice, despite being a gujju and bjp state leadership has no mass leader to call its own.

        I agree fadnavis tried to break pawar. But this is all part of the game of calculating risks. And fadnavis gambled badly. Especially if u are on some one else( modi ) borrowed political capital and u come from an smaller caste. The bjp has been trying to do the same with yadavs, but no state leader tries to go full hog since they know it can come back to bite them.

        The next election will be a good test, considering I doubt modi can win back them the state the third time and the state leadership ( especially fadnavis) have to pull their socks and not just bank on “administration”.

        1. He is no munde with caste backing.
          But Munde’s caste backing doesn’t go beyond 40-50 constituencies. Same with Pawar Sahab’s Maratha support which at max impacts 100 seats. MH is a state of broken mandates with 4 comparatively strong power centers and vote shares which for these four parties which were about same for 15 years.
          I agree it’s Modi who somehow broke the pattern in 2014 with BJP going ahead of the pack in vote + seats.
          in 2019 all parties lost vote share due to high number of independents – intra alliance tussles were pretty big.
          BJP 24
          SS 18
          NCP 17
          Coongress 17

        2. Munde was from the vanjari/lambadi community, numerically smaller than brahmins, and even more culturally distinct.

        3. Munde was the leader of the OBC faction (Mahajan/Gadkari for UCs) of BJP with Khadse etc, his chelas. You want to take on Marathas, the OBCs are your only bet.

          Fadnavis doesn;t add anything extra to the matrix, whatver he can do, Gadkari can do better. Munde at least had 40-50 constituency in his wake, Congress sort of leveled the playing field in Fadnavis’s own bastion, Vidharbha in the last state election.

          1. Well, I would say Fadanvis focused too much on breaking the stronghold of NCP in western MH, Vidharba and Madhya Maharashtra was where BJP lost seats as a result of comparative neglect.
            But on caste I agree – it’s easier to polarize against a brahmin than an OBC no matter how small his caste support.

          1. “The way he has sidelined is opponents is very reminiscent of a certain Chief minister from early 2000s”

  2. I agree with Saurav on this one. If one were to draw hyperbolic analogies then Modi is modern day Shivaji and fadnavis is Peshwa. A big reason why OBC castes are not entirely on the modi band wagon is precisely their discomfort with “who after modi”. I would not be surprised if Modi is forced to take Indira Gandhi’s gamelan of High +low against the middle. The OBC Brahmin fault line runs throughout India and both groups need to work out some sort of arrangement for mutual benefit.

  3. The BJP barely squeaked through in its fortress Gujarat without Modi. It got saved by the urbanity of Gujarat. Once the Muslim angle is removed from the picture, Hindutva basically reduces to Hinditva and this does not turn off the urban Gujarati.

    This wont work in Maharashtra though, as its urban centres wont go along with Hinditva. And with the BJP cutting talented leaders like Shivraj Chauhan, one does worry about their post-Modi prospects.

    1. “Once the Muslim angle is removed from the picture, Hindutva basically reduces to Hinditva”
      I see Vikram playing fast and loose with the facts, again. Only a few weeks before he was lambasting Hindus for their oppressive culture by quoting the female infanticide stats. of the diaspora Sikhs in Scandinavia.
      It if ofcourse “Hinditva” which has made Hindutva so popular of late in Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Karnataka etc. It couldn’t be that people prefer an ideologically driven new-comer (with a decent record of delivering state services) over the decayed, caste based, dynastic parties which have ruled many states for some time now.

      Forget Maharashtra, Hindutva if reduced to Hinditva won’t make the BJP win UP. Noone loves Hindi so much.

      1. Gender ratio at birth:
        Punjab: 889
        Haryana: 831
        UP: 879
        Rajasthan: 861


        Regarding Hinditva, the BJP’s ministers and leaders repeatedly refer to Hindi as the ‘national language’ despite various court judgements that clarify that India has no such thing. The idea, quite transparently is to elevate the culture of Hindistan as the predominant, singular ‘national culture’.

        1. Punjab: 889
          Haryana: 831
          UP: 879
          Rajasthan: 861

          If you do a caste analysis of this data you may know that its the land holding Rajput or OBC castes which are the real culprit here. Jutts, Jats, Rajputs, Yadavs etc. Nothing really to point to Hinduism here, rather the specific culture of these castes is to blame.

          “BJP’s ministers and leaders repeatedly refer to Hindi as the ‘national language’”
          So have many Congress ministers and national leaders from the Hindi heartland who may belong to other parties.

          Some of it is internalized in Indian bureaucracy by now. I remember a news item about Indian Navy celebrating “Hindi Divas” in Chennai.

          1. Idk what they did but we had a ‘Hindi officer’ in my college, they had nice office space too.

          2. I tried addressing the issue in a recent piece on “Brahmanical patriarchy”;
            A Direct consequence of Dowry and Two child policy (along with economic hardships and some other factors) Female Foeticide – arguably the worst Anti-Female practice in India is also a deeply sociological practice with very tenuous or no links to “Religions”. (Though Christianity actively condemns all abortions and hence Female Foeticide has no existence in Christians)

            Yes this issue is more prescient in Landowning castes where land ownership and inheritance are issues – especially with female inheritance right. That practice is less in both Lower and upper castes than middle castes

  4. That is not true… in fact urban centres in Maharashtra are a relative stronghold of Hindutva .. it is in fact in the rural parts where Hindutvawadi parties [both of them] have had a problem, especially outside Konkan-Nashik [coast] region and Vidarbha.

    1. About 13% of residents in MH are Hindi migrants, and they live predominantly in the urban areas. They support the BJP, while the Marathi people vote for the SS.

  5. Hindutva had moderate support; especially in pockets of Mumbai and Aurangabad and Pune to an extent. But its not as overwhelming as in Hindi heartland or even Gujarat as of now. Rather it was congress who tried to polarize using Savarkar (which was a stupid tactic) in the election, but Savarkar is tremendously popular in MH much more so than Golwalkar. But Piddi never learns

  6. The BJP is too savvy to go full hog on Hindi. Its a nice-to-have-feature but it won’t break the bank. It knows Hindi is already doing its job, of making rest of India more “homogeneous” thru movies and popular culture.

    Hindutva has limited appeal outside Hindu heartland in less-Hindu space ( Deccan, East India). Its inversely proportional to distance from N-India , the Arabia of Hinduism. So BJP skewing thru in Gujrat is no surprise, in a way any party which has been ruling the state for 3 decades should have lost. But it didn’t , because of Hindutva.

    On Maharastra, SS had an over bloated presence in last decade due to Modi. Outside of urban MH, there is hardly anything different b/w SS, NCP or Congress in eyes of common marathi. They would rather choose NCP , Congress. On the Hindu front, SS has ceded that space totally to BJP now. So i see their core voter (Hindu marathis) moving towards BJP, and (Marathis manoos) towards Congress/ NCP.

  7. Kaka’s entire hinterland power comes from the rents and power structures of APMC and Mandi who fleece millions of ordinary farmers. Now with the center’s three farm ordinances, that is being eroded at a very fast pace.


    In fact, if Fadnavis was at the helm, then Kaka would be singing in the rain now. I like Fadnavis, he is ruthless and unforgiving. He has potential for higher things in the Indian establishment.

    The real joke is on Shiv Sena voters – who have in reality put Kaka on the chair. And from past electoral history, the “Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram”s get wiped out. The MVA is already showing its administrative cluelessness – Covid handling, the shifting of the carshed to Kanjurmarg is a OR headache (will unbalance Mumbai Metro for the next few decades), infra slowdown.

    MVA is mini-UPA2 – two Rajas but only one Gaddi.

  8. I like Fadnavis, he is ruthless and unforgiving.
    If you go below the belt make your you give in a killer blow. He went after Saheb (he isnt called kaka) when he couldve focused on Vidharbha (where eventually BJP lost out to congress) – NCP just managed to weather the storm.
    SS has made a joke of themselves out of this i presume – still early days

    1. He is Kaka now…..”Kaka Mala Vachva” to both UT and Ajit. One of them is going to become a ghost in politics.

  9. India under Modi resembles that under Indira a lot. Think of 2014 as 1967, 2019 as 1972, Bangladesh as Balakot, bank nationalization as notebandhi…and the 1973 oil price increase as 2020 corona, the crisis that pops the bubble. In that regard, the Cong of today is like BJP of old, limited to influence in select number of states. Expect Modi to stiff arm non BJP states the same way Cong did to regional parties in 60s and 70s.

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