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From General Elections to Maharashtra Polls: Observations 
Source: News Bharati English24 Oct 2014 15:50:11

From General Elections to Maha Polls: Observations

An overview of the General Elections to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly October, 2014

Maharashtra Assembly polls had shown a drastic change in the traditional politics in Maharashtra. There was no alliance and all main political parties tested their might in the state.

Political pundits and a large number of media is busy speculating on who is going to be the next Maha CM and what can be the political calculations, Political analyst Dr. Sharad Khare looks at the political scenario with a different perspective. Read how the veteran political science expert observes at the political shift in India.

The recent Maharashtra Legislative Assembly General Elections 2014 held on 15th October 2014 were marked by the following characteristics:

  1. Absence of political alliances in the State for elections.
  2. Statutory time table for the election programme was in accordance of the laws concerned but the preparatory time left available for the parties which contested the election, was meager and the parties were forced to complete the task with rapid mobilization of public opinion in a haphazard and almost unprepared manner.
  3. Citizens seemed to be disinterested in the Election manifestoes of the parties.
  4. Citizens showed absolute disbelief in the promises made.
  5. There were three regional outfits and two national parties contesting the elections.
  6. There were no issues in the elections worth mentioning. The financial misappropriations which were unearthed by the opposition stalwarts in the Legislative Assembly were not highlighted or discussed at any length during the electoral battles except mutual allegations.
  7. The contesting parties suffered from a new phobia or fever called ‘MODI PHOBIA’. There seemed as if it were a MODI PHOBIA WAVE.
  8. Regional parties like Shivsena and MNS fielded candidates who were of lower trajectory and therefore could not impress the electorate in any way, whereas the national parties fielded several defectors.
  9. The entire campaign was marred by a very hopelessly low and malicious, hated and heated arguments, derogatory references and unparliamentarily language by all-candidates supported by the media world. Debating culture was rustic and was fit for village level skirmishes.
  10. The State appeared to be reeling under leaderlessness ( as was India till May Lok Sabha elections ) for a long time.
  11. Good governance and efficient public administration had almost come to a standstill for almost over a decade.
  12. Efforts to maintain the unity of the existing alliances were made almost endlessly and fruitlessly. The unity broke down. The citizens seemed fed-up with the kind of haggling that were exhibited by all those engaged in. Over a week was wasted in merely arguing for the number of seats demanded by each party. All the party leaders seemed to have forgotten that they were approaching the General Election. The citizens/voters were infuriated.
  13. Helpless citizens were amused to entertain the claims of each party to claim largest following in the State.
  14. The most important feature of the election was that the voters never appeared ‘confused’. The voters were already determined and had decided their course of action.
  15. Perhaps for the first time , (old ) issues like regional aspirations ( Me Marathi- Marathi sentiments), religion-cultural chauvinism , anti-Bihari, anti-Gujarati , etc. quiet or even express hostilities towards other linguistic minorities , all such contentions seemed side-lined . New issues like craze for power , conspiracy and intrigues , defections to suitable political parties , changing loyalties , use of money-power , promises and assurances were liberally poured in.
  16. Issue of development of Maharashtra on different fronts did not find favour with any candidate or party during the campaign. Utterance of development was heard but without serious discussions.
  17. The party propaganda , standard of debates , banners and slogans , expenditure patterns , employing paid workers , outsourcing the propaganda machineries , professionally managed press conferences , were some of the salient features of the electoral battles. However, the contentions and charges of corruption made against each other were at abominable level. Names were called , filthy personal charges out of personal vendetta, were made without respecting the personalities , absence of public meetings with the exceptions of only a few stalwarts like Modi , Pawar , Mrs. Sonia Gandhi did not contribute to the mobilization of public opinion to any significant extent.
  18. There appeared a significant drop in the undesirable references to Godhra episode happened way back in 2002 in Gujarat. Even the references to Babri Masjid conspiracies found it absent.
  19. There also appeared a drop in branding BJP as a communal party and as a party against Muslims. Most of the opposition parties seemed to have realized that the bogie of communalism did not work in the electoral battles.
  20. BJP too tried to establish that its success did not depend on the appeasement of minority i.e. Muslim or Christian votes. The BJP on the contrary seemed to convince all that it was their economic development which mattered most and not the reference to BJP communal card.
  21. There were only a few complaints registered with the ‘administration’ in regard to the denial of voting right at the polling booths (such as missing names, no voting I-cards etc).

Relevance of the Assembly General Election of Maharashtra 2014:

Thematic significance in a federal polity:

  1. The electoral battle in Maharashtra had almost taken the nature of regional parties v/s national parties.

  2. The Lok Sabha General Elections May 2014 reflected the mood of the nation. The Maharashtra Assembly (and Haryana as well) elections were considered to be its continuation.

  3. Principal issue in the General Election was tested—whether development, or price-rise or communalism or corruption-scams. Most of the issues were referred to but not seriously discussed. Candidates were busy in chalking out strategy to win the election by hook or crook, hurling personal attacks of (many a time baseless or based on hearsay) dubious nature.

  4. Political alliances broke down and the split led to quadrangular contests - a new situation which envisaged division of votes. However, it also provided an opportunity to them to consolidate their determination.

  5. The Prime Minister and his colleagues at the Center during the campaign appealed to evolve a sort of ‘unity of command’ in the federal polity with a view to bringing about smoothen ‘center-state’ relations.

  6. The campaign was as if it were a referendum on Modi’s hegemony.

  7. Modi’s towering personality and leadership remained unbeatable and unchallenged. He seemed to have carried the Central leadership with him and the State party apparatus and its leadership too was overshadowed by his initiatives in the electoral battle.

  8. Modi’s approach in the electioneering commendably and memorably appealed to the common man- man in the street- with whom Modi identified.

  9. Maharashtra and Haryana Assembly elections were relevant to Narendra Modi since it had to do a lot in center-state relations in the development context. Modi has his own ideas, plans and programmes of development. He has already experimented these in Gujarat when he was the chief minister there.

  10. Narendra Modi’s command over bureaucracy is exemplary. His knowledge of administration and the functioning of the Departments in the government is beyond doubt and thorough. Therefore, Modi as the leader of the nation desired that implementation of national programmes could be better implemented if the federating states too were ruled by a common political government. and its party structure—this message was expressed by Modi during the election campaign. However, Modi’s personality overshadowed his programmes.

  11. Caste played a significant and decisive role in the federal polity. Tussle for constitutional reservation in the field of education and employment cropped up during the campaign .which influences the electoral behavioral pattern.

  12. There are two situations—young leaders and old voters, and young voters and old leaders. Leadership change is brought about by voters esp. if they are young-first timers. The Indian electoral face seems to be changing which is bound to strengthen the democratic polity in India. General Elections to the central legislature and General Elections to the federal state legislatures signal the change. Emergence of the ‘first time voters’ have the ability to tilt the balance.

  13. The electorate in Maharashtra seems to have taught a lesson to all those who have cherished an interesting self styled proposition that their leadership was indispensable. This state of psyche was thrashed out by the electorate.

  14. The common voter—man in the street—seems to have been very much influenced to the extent of mesmerizing by the visionary leadership of Narendra Modi at the central government. The common man has very big expectations from the new Prime Minister of India esp. his new ideas of planning, development, his pragmatic approach to the state of economy and his competence in the application of common sense to the problems. This appears an important attitude required in a federal polity.

The role played by the electronic media
The role played by the electronic media during the election campaign in Maharashtra needs to be seriously scrutinized, examined and redefined which is absolutely necessary for the successful functioning of federal polity. The level and standard of reporting and coverage of the events and personalities appeared to have lowered down to a very bad taste; it was as if it were playing one candidate against the other. The reporting made did not contain any news or news value in the real sense of the term.

In many a cases most of the news contained personal reflections of the reporters or may be their personal preferences of the owners of the respective television channels. e.g. the interviews of the candidates by the reporters contained : one , leading questions and extracting the desired replies , two, use of abusive language on the part of the reporters ,three, extremely personal allegations under the guise of enquiring questions, fourth, questions would be hurled as if it was a cross-examination to the extent of almost indicting the interviewees , five, the whole show would appear as a sort of a quarrel ,six, the language, phonetics, grammar, the content, the style, presentation, interaction with personalities, relevance, the unpardonable cynicism etc.… the list would become a bit longer.

The interviewer would appear arrogant and essentially disrespecting the interviewee. It would be a show of insulting the personalities. This is not to belittle the role of the media or media-persons .The freedom and liberty of the media is beyond doubt and the author stands by it. The content of course has to be in good taste. The performance of the reporters employed in the BBC World, CNN Channel and many other Western media needs to be studied. The Reporters there are well read and research oriented, they are far better analysts.

Many Indian reporters in various languages do not appear to be experienced and properly well read, leave alone being studious and intelligent. Perhaps, they believe in the postulate that cynicism is the essence of journalism. This is true of those who belong to native languages. Moreover, the observation is that the command over language and style whether in English or Marathi has been an area where many a new recruits in media fall short and are adjudged weak on TV channels.

The drafting of the, news content too is adjudged very weak and even substandard in the print media. The glaring example of the reporters on the channels who keep on repeating the incidence narration and beating around the bush-the harrowing irritating experience for the candidates and party workers and of course the viewers, has poured fuel in the electoral fire. It is high time that the contesting political parties their leaders and party workers need to restrain themselves from frequently approaching the media to explain uninvited and uncalled for explanations.

The example of then ex-President of USA Mr. Bill Clinton refused to present himself before the media immediately after the tragedy of World Trading Center of “9-11”, when he is reported to have said that it was not the proper time to discuss the ‘intelligence failure’ but to assist the US Government (i.e. President George Bush) needs to be studied esp. the maturity and the propriety shown by the ex-President- a good lesson for the political leaders in India. In short, the point being made is that it is high time on the part of all those concerned, to introspect. It seems that the meaning of the press-freedom is exaggerated and at least in India it needs some sort of self control and if required statutory regulation in the federal polity.

Post election results scenario in Maharashtra:

The final figures of the results were as following:

Party

2009

2014

I N C

82

42

NCP

62

41

BJP

46

122

Shivsena

45

63

The above figures relate to major political players in the State. BJP appears to have doubled its performance. Question of Muslim politics, terrorism in the State, secularism, minorities, Hindu fundamentalism, these and a few others were not seen as election issues.

Although, the BJP fell short of reaching absolute majority line; its proximity to the majority line was never doubted. Shivsena too increased its tally fairly well. However, the ruling alliance of INC and NCP were thrashed out and brought down by half its existing tally.

The electoral results are another matter but its resultant analysis has already been presented at the beginning of the present note.

 


Author is a Senior Political analyst and currently working as Director at Vivekanand Institute of Social Sciences Research, Pune.