Three years after an unprecedented sweeping victory in the Lok Sabha as well as State Assembly polls in Maharashtra, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today stands at the crossroads. The party has only one-and-half years left before it faces the next big test in the state and many heavyweight leaders of the party are now suggesting that the party wants assembly polls of 2019 to be held almost five months ahead of schedule.
The BJP’s Maharashtra unit is preparing for a complete revamp. Maharashtra is a very important state for the BJP for two reasons. Firstly, because this state sends 48 members to the Lok Sabha which is a very large number compared to any other state and secondly, because it is one of the most industrialised or cash-rich states which contributes hugely to the central exchequer which any political party would dream to rule.
This is not the first time the BJP has got the opportunity to rule the state. The party ruled the state between 1995 and 1999 in alliance with its long standing partner Shiv Sena. But BJP was the junior partner in that deal. The alliance lasted well under leaders like Balasaheb Thackeray and Pramod Mahajan. The BJP always played second fiddle to the Sena because they knew senior Thackeray had command over his party and the masses. But now with Mahajan and Thackeray both gone, things are completely different. Now BJP has got 123 seats in the Assembly and it calls itself the ‘elder brother’ in its alliance with the Sena. It has been reported widely how these two alliance partners are not getting along with each other at all and how the Sena works almost as if it’s an opposition force inside the Assembly and outside in the state on the political field.
To add to these political problems, the BJP’s own internal bickering has also started affecting the party’s overall performance in the government and in the state of Maharashtra. The alleged irregularities committed by BJP’s Minister of Housing Prakash Mehta caused an uproar in the Assembly for several days. CM Fadnavis who was seen getting tough against former minister Eknath Khadse earlier took a soft stand when it came to Mehta’s case. Over a dozen ministers in the Fadnavis government have faced some kind of corruption charges or other in the last couple of years.
On one hand, while BJP’s top leadership in New Delhi keeps boasting about how their rule has been corruption-free, here in Maharashtra one scam after another is being alleged by the opposition and the CM is forced to order an inquiry into each one of them because there is documentary evidence to prove that something was wrong in each case!
As a result of all the alleged scams getting unearthed and Fadnavis being forced to order inquiries against his own ministers, the BJP has faced huge perception damage. The party has many wise leaders and they very well understand all this. Now they want to act quickly before it’s too late.
The agricultural distress in rural Maharashtra, the anger among the Maratha community, the economic slowdown that the country is going through and probable failure of monsoon in large parts of Marathwada region are creating huge pressure on the BJP leadership and the party is now thinking of a major revamp in the Maharashtra unit as well as a reshuffle in the state cabinet. Only time will tell whether these measures will help BJP tide over the present political crisis that it is going through.