Updated: October 11, 2014 12:16:30 pm
As Dr Avinash Pol, a veterinarian practicing in the villages of Phaltan taluka of Satara, canvasses for the local Congress candidate, he is faced with a strange difficulty. “People say that they have been voting for the same people for the past many years, yet nothing good has happened. Although ours is a Congress-NCP stronghold, people say they are tired of the parties. After all, we have been ruling the state for 15 years,” he said.
Pol, a Congress supporter, says unfinished irrigation projects and lack of infrastructure in his area suggest that the ruling party failed to live up to expectations. “How can we expect people to vote for us?” he said.
According to NCP and Congress leaders and political observers, the toughest battle for the two ruling parties is not to fight the Narendra Modi wave but to go out and ask for votes when many promises made by them have remained unfulfilled. “Fifteen years of continuous rule leads to enormous anti-incumbency,” said Pol.
This observation about the “fatigue with the ruling party” is echoed across the state. Various scams and perceived lack of basic infrastructure has hit voters’ confidence in the Congress and the NCP. If water is a major issue in Marathwada and other parts of the state, lack of proper infrastructure and women’s safety plague the minds of voters in western Maharashtra.
In urban areas, solid waste management and public transport are main issues, while in rural areas, load shedding and tyranny of local leaders are key factors.
Abhishek Barne, a resident of Thergaon area of Chinchwad, said that NCP workers have had to face uncomfortable questions from people on the issue of unauthorised constructions. “We had fought the elections on the issue of legalising such constructions, but nothing happened. This time when we went to campaign, it was the first question they asked,” he said.
According to political observers, the anti-incumbency factor coupled with corruption allegations may push voters away from the Congress
and the NCP, which have so far been popular in both rural and urban areas.
“The Congress has failed to take action against ministers named in scams. At the local level, involvement of leaders in land grabbing and illegal sand mining will be remembered when people vote,” Pune-based RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar said.
Incidents like the Shakti Mills rape in Mumbai have also tarnished their image, said observers. “The rise in incidents of molestation and eve teasing has led people to think that there has been a failure to control unruly elements,” said Y P Thakar, director of the Centre for Development Planning and Research.
Solid waste management, although a local issue, has become a poll plank across the state, especially in the urban areas such as Mumbai, Pune and Nashik. Arjun Borate, a resident of Pimpri, said residents gheraoed the local MLA recently due to non-clearance of garbage for many days.
BJP leaders concede that although PM Narendra Modi can help them gather crowds and gain entry into uncharted territories like north and western Maharashtra, their success would largely depend on how well they project themselves as a party that can solve issues which the NCP-Congress failed to address.
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