Maharashtra state elections 2019: These are the issues the opposition could have capitalised on but didn’t

Maharashtra state elections 2019: These are the issues the opposition could have capitalised on but didn’t
From political rallies to television debates to drawing room conversations, the Maharashtra state Assembly elections seems to be dead rubber. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who died in 1966, an election issue in 2019 and a lot of the media as well as the opposition seem to have fallen for the trap.

However, there are enough issues which the opposition could have capitalised on the voter dissatisfaction. But as the campaign comes to a close, the dispirited opposition failed to offer even an alternate narrative, and has showed much less gusto in providing leadership against the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government in the state.

As the leaders dwell on the glories of the past, the state’s population, which is reeling between drought and deluge, is worried about their future. These are some of the issues in which the people of Maharashtra have suffered under the current establishment.

Auto sector slowdown hits Chakan in Pune

Maharashtra has been one of the worst victims of economic slowdown. In Pune, hundreds of thousands have lost jobs in the auto sales drop resulted in slashing millions of jobs of both temporary and permanent workers.

Auto sector employees who are amongst the most well compensated of blue collar workers, are now roaming around in the auto hub of Chakan in Pune—doing menial jobs. Former Congress party president Rahul Gandhi was one of the few to point out to the issue. He commented that Modi is showing youth the moon taking a dig at Chandrayaan 2 mission, even as the auto sector “remained shattered”.

BJP, in its manifesto, however promised one crore jobs to people, but lacks details on how they plan to reverse the situation, which only seems to be worsening.

Burdened with loans and low support prices-farmers resort to suicides

Farmers are in no better position either. In the last five years, around 16,000 farmers have committed suicides said Sharad Pawar, the leader Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) at his election rally in Anushakti Nagar.

The septuagenarian criticized the government for not waiving loans of farmers who are hit by drought, even as thousands of crores to corporates are being written off as non-performing assets. The state government did waive off loans but it covered only 30% of the affected.

These last five years have been tough for farmers in the state as they claim to be hurt by its policies which did not increase the minimum support prices. Around 15,000 farmers marched from Nasik to Mumbai not once but twice in the last five years—asking the government for aid. In fact, in a shocking protest in 2017, the state’s farmers emptied milk onto the streets leaving the government red faced.

The state has a new crime capital in Nagpur

The state also has another problem that is ballooning—increasing crime in Nagpur. The constituency of the ruling chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has turned notorious for organized and unorganized crime.

On an average, over 700 cases are registered in the city which shares a border with Madhya Pradesh. Apart from increased organized crime and racketeering, the city has also turned infamous for prostitution, murder and attempted murder cases, amongst others.

Fadnavis has been trying to turn around the extensive crime using stringent laws against anti-social elements. This started in 2015, but there has only been a slight change in the number of crimes.

Mumbai’s creaky infrastructure

Mumbai and its suburbs too have been many burning problems for which India the opposition provided only lip service to. The repeated lack of preparation leading to loss of lives during flood, which is a predictable annual occurrence in the city, has been a major source of discontent.

The city’s commute has worsened in the last few years as metro and other construction have weighed only the already-snaking traffic. Even if one were to look at it as a temporary pain towards a better, it does not help that even the roads are filled with potholes.

The Aarey Colony mess

As the state approved the chopping of over 2,000 trees for the construction of a metro car shed at Aarey colony, a large citizen protest ensued but never turned into the poll issue it could have been. The protesting citizens were defeated in a court case and it sure left a bad aftertaste for those who detested the chopping of trees amidst a rising awareness around the terrible impact on the environment it would have. The protests were also diluted by a large number of people who came in support of the metro car shed as it would make commuting easier for millions of Mumbaikars.

The opposition parties were conspicuous in their absence on ground over the issue and thus, it never took a political dimension.

The dynasty debut

The issues which find a pulse with young voters could have been handled by a young politician like Aditya Thackeray from the state’s most-popular political family. But, seven years after the demise of the charismatic Bala Saheb Thackeray, his successors, including Aditya’s father Uddhav, have lacked Bala Saheb’s gravitas.

Instead, Aditya got ridiculed for sporting a lungi, a South Indian attire, as his detractors cited his grandfather’s attacks on South Indian migrants a few decades. He was also caught on the wrong foot endorsing the BEST bus service, and his refusal to address issues like a toddler slipping down the drain--did not go down well with the electorate.

An acid test for the BJP government

The politicians of the ruling party which is the BJP and Shiv Sena combine, seem to be taking it slow on campaigning this year. In fact, the CM Fadnavis also said that there is no pehelwan or a great opponent this time.

A lot more believe that this state election is a foregone conclusion mostly because the Parliamentary elections in April and May this year have shown that there is a strong BJP wave. Yet, a lot has changed since Modi came to power the second time. For one, the economic slowdown has become a grim reality and painful reality—which the central government has been slow to react to.

Maharashtra’s election outcomes often mirror the general elections that have preceded them in recent years but surprises are born out of complacency. But for that, there has to be a credible intent, palpable energy, and effective communication from the opposition.