The Narendra Modi juggernaut also rolled over the Congress in Maharashtra, which is the state where the party was founded. Such was the impact of the Modi onslaught in the state, which has been the Congress’s bastion, that the party was almost completely wiped out. It could win just two seats.
The humiliating defeat also raised serious questions on whether the party will be able
to remain in power in the state with Assembly elections due in October this year.
After the Lok Sabha polls in 2009, the Congress had emerged as the largest party in the state, winning 17 out of the 26 seats it contested. Ally Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) had contested the remaining 22 seats.
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Retaining the pre-poll tie up with the NCP this time too, the Congress fielded candidates in 26 seats, but could wrest only two — Nanded and Hingoli in Marathwada. Recording its worst-ever performance, the party even lagged behind NCP that contested lesser number of seats, slipping to fourth position in the state.
Political analysts said Modi and the BJP would love the narrative of turning Maharashtra saffron. They pointed out that the state had remained loyal to the Congress even during the 1977 LS elections after Emergency, when the party was wiped out in the rest of the country. It had then won 20 out of the 47 seats, polling 47 per cent votes.
In 1996, when Sena-BJP was in power in the state, the Congress had wrested 15 LS seats with nearly 35 per cent vote share.
Its previous worst performance was in the 1999 polls where the party won 10 seats with 30 per cent vote share. Sharad Pawar had parted ways with the Congress and formed the NCP, which had then contested independently. But a close look at the past election data reveals that the vote share for the party has been consistently declining since the 1998 LS polls (see box).
As per latest Election Commission data accessed at the time of filing this report, the Congress had bagged merely 18.5 per cent of total votes polled in Maharashtra this time. Party insiders said the Modi factor was too hot to handle; but also conceded that unrest against the ruling Congress-NCP combine, slow pace of development initiatives, allegations of corruption and bickering within the alliance too played a role in the defeat.
While certain party leaders said there was a need for “serious introspection”, some leaders, including Industries Minister Narayan Rane whose son Nilesh was defeated from Sindhudurg-Ratnagiri, and Employment Guarantee Scheme Minister Dr Nitin Raut who hails from the Vidarbha belt where the party was wiped out, offered to resign. Demand for CM Prithviraj Chavan’s resignation was also raised. The party was entirely wiped out in Western Maharashtra and Konkan belts too.
Rubbing salt into the wounds, Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council Vinod Tawde said: “Prithviraj Chavan and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar (NCP) should take moral responsibility for the results and resign.”
The only solace for the Congress came from the Marathawada belt, where former CM Ashok Chavan, who is under scanner for controversies pertaining to the Adarsh scam and paid news, helped the party retain Nanded seat. He also steered the Congress to victory in the nearby Hingoli seat where party candidate Rajeev Satav won.
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