“We are not rooting for the BJP or its politics, but we are happy with the Bachat Gat (Self Help Group (SHG)) scheme. We want to get into mainstream. It holds for our self reliance and alternate livelihood,” Sheikh, who is in mid-30s, said. Bachat Gat is a government welfare scheme to provide micro-finance to women entrepreneurs and aims at women empowerment.
Farm worker Suresh Kisan Deovalkar, who attended the CM’s rally in Amravati’s Gurukunj Morjari on August 1, said his only concern was drought. “We use agriculture pump once a week or fortnight due to acute water crisis. I came to hear what the chief minister would say about water scarcity. I am glad he discussed our problems,” he said.
In Gondia district, Devendra Meshram from Mundagoan Surgana village has been struggling to get an agriculture pump connection for last one year. The farmer, who owns four acres of land, said, he was at the August 4 rally at Arjuni taluka to find out what developmental projects the chief minister would announce for his district.
As the first leg of the Mahajanadesh Yatra covering Vidarbha region concluded on August 6, the BJP has claimed that there was a high participation of youths and women at it rallies that covered 1,069 km and 39 Assembly constituencies. The yatra, which commenced on August 1, heralded the unofficial kickoff of the BJP’s election campaign for the Assembly polls, scheduled later this year.
At each of his rallies in the first phase of the yatra, Fadnavis tried to woo people, mostly farmers, by reiterating that his government has invested Rs 50,000 crore in agriculture sector in the past five years, which was much higher than the Rs 20,000 crore that the previous Congress-NCP government had invested during the 15 years they were in power in the state.
His second hook was the 1.5 lakh new agriculture pumps sanctioned by the BJP-led government since 2014, including those pending from the Congress-NCP regime. Fadnavis also drew attention to the industrial hubs — from textile to defence — that were set up in Vidarbha.
Yatra’s chief coordinator Sujit Singh Thakur said, “Unlike in the past, where politics was the central theme, Fadnavis focussed on his developmental politics during the Mahajanadesh Yatra.”
Claiming that it was for the first time that any chief minister had presented to the people an account of what the BJP-led government did in last five years, Agriculture Minister Anil Bonde said, “For the first time we have seen a CM who is presenting to the people audit of his five years’ work district wise. At the same time, the CM has also revealed the shortcomings (of the government). People, especially in rural areas, can easily judge the his level of sincerity.”
Earlier, till 2013-14, Maharashtra politics weighed around Gopinath Munde and Nitin Gadkari in Marathwada and Vidarbha, with their territories clearly demarcated – Munde in Marathwada, and Gadkari in Vidarbha. Five years later, Fadnavis forayed into Vidarbha, indicating that he is trying to redraw the in-house political boundaries. Interestingly, BJP’s slogan at every rally or roadshow also projected Fadnavis as the undisputed leader of Maharashtra — “Devendra Fadnavis aage badho, Maharashtra aap ke saath hain”.
On his part, Fadnavis ensured there was a mention of Gadkari at every rally, especially in the context of national highways. As a part of the strategy, ministers and elected representatives were seen sharing the limelight in their respective areas. For instance, Power Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule accompanied Fadnavis during the yatra in Nagpur district, while Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar was seen alongside the CM at the Chandrapur rally.
Of the total 62 Assembly seats in Vidarbha region, BJP had won 44, Shiv Sena four, Congress 10, NCP one and Independent candidates bagged three in 2014 Assembly polls. To improve its tally this time, the yatra forayed not just through BJP’s strongholds, but also constituencies held by ally Shiv Sena, and the opposition Congress and NCP.