Among the states that savagely cut down the odious Narendra Modi-Amit Shah-led BJP regime to size in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections were the two states with the largest number of Members of Parliament in the country: Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. Both these states are currently ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Uttar Pradesh (UP), with 80 Lok Sabha seats, gave 43 seats to the I.N.D.I.A bloc, an increase of 37 compared to 2019; it gave 36 seats to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), a drop of 28. One Independent has won there. There is no doubt that there was an extraordinary performance by the I.N.D.I.A bloc in UP.

In Maharashtra, the 2019 Lok Sabha election result for 48 seats was as follows: BJP – 23 seats (27.84 % votes), SS – 18 seats (23.5 % votes), NDA – 41 seats (51.34 % votes), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) – 4 seats (15.66 % votes), INC – 1 seat (16.41 % votes), UPA – 5 seats (32.01 % votes), AIMIM (Aurangabad) – 1 seat (0.73 % votes), Independent (Amravati, later pro-BJP) – 1 seat (total of all independents and other smaller parties 3.72 % votes), Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA - Prakash Ambedkar) – 0 seats (6.92 % votes), Total – 48 seats (100 % votes).

In sharp contrast, in 2024, the people gave 30 of the 48 seats to the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA-I.N.D.I.A), an increase of 25 seats compared to 2019. They gave only 17 seats to the NDA, a drop of 24. An independent Congress rebel has won, and he is likely to return to the MVA.

Three Union Ministers of the BJP were resoundingly defeated – Raosaheb Danve from Jalna Bharati Pawar from Dindori (ST), and Kapil Patil from Bhiwandi – and 20 sitting MPs, almost all from the NDA, were also defeated.

While this is certainly a welcome development, the voting percentage of the two fronts is too close for comfort. For MVA-I.N.D.I.A it is 44 %, and for NDA it is 43.6 %.

The number of seats won and the votes secured by each party in Maharashtra is: MVA-I.N.D.I.A – Congress – 13/17 seats (16.9 %), Shiv Sena-Uddhav Thackeray – 9/21 seats (16.7 %), NCP (Sharad Pawar) – 8/10 seats (10.3 %). NDA – BJP – 9/28 seats (26.1 %), Shiv Sena-Eknath Shinde – 7/15 seats (13 %), NCP (Ajit Pawar) – 1/4 seats (3.6 %), Rashtriya Samaj Party – 0/1 seat (0.8 %).

The Mumbai North West seat was won by the Shinde Sena over the Thackeray Sena by only 48 votes, after recounts. The result will be challenged in the courts.

The MVA fought this election with its back to the wall. As far as the SS and NCP were concerned, under pressure from the BJP, the Election Commission of India (ECI) gave both the name of the party and its symbol to the rebel factions led by Eknath Shinde and Ajit Pawar respectively.

The original parties led by Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar were forced to take new election symbols. Money and media power were obviously controlled by the BJP. But the MVA fought back unitedly with grit and determination, and the people supported it.

The Maharashtra Lok Sabha results have become even more significant because the state faces its Vidhan Sabha elections within just four more months, in October 2024.

In a detailed write-up titled “The Maharashtra Lok Sabha Election Scene”, written and published before the results were declared, we had concluded: “To sum up, if it is a reasonably fair election, it surely seems to be advantage MVA-I.N.D.I.A, which should be able to win more than half the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra this time, as against only five seats which the opposition had won in the state in 2019.

“That in itself would be a big and significant advance in this crucial nationwide battle for the defence of the livelihood of the people, and for the defence of democracy, secularism, and the Constitution itself.” This assessment has been vindicated by the results.

What Led To This Result?

A preliminary analysis of the Maharashtra Lok Sabha election results will reveal the following main reasons for the NDA setback and the MVA victory.

First, the people were sick of the BJP and its corrupt and immoral acts in the state in the last two years, which resulted in the splits in the SS, and then in the NCP, and then again nibbling at some of the Congress leaders. Over 80 MLAs out of the 100-odd MLAs of the SS and the NCP together were induced to support the BJP by using a combination of threats and blandishments.

It was through such dirty conspiracies that the discredited Shinde-Fadnavis-Ajit Pawar state government was brought into existence. The corrupt and unprincipled splintering of the SS and NCP led to a big sympathy wave for their original leaders and activists.

In such a situation, the veteran NCP leader of many battles Sharad Pawar, SS leader Uddhav Thackeray, and Congress leader Nana Patole, spearheaded the resistance of the people against this political chicanery, and strengthened the unity of the MVA. This was further buttressed by the formation of the I.N.D.I.A bloc at the national level.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections also, Sharad Pawar had played a salutary role of fighting against the BJP. The most high-profile Lok Sabha election contest in Maharashtra this time was between Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule, and Ajit Pawar’s wife Sunetra Pawar.

Supriya Sule won by over 1.5 lakh votes. The MVA leaders addressed scores of huge public meetings as part of their election campaign. In several constituencies, it became like an election of the people against the BJP.

The second factor was clearly economic distress. The growing crisis in unemployment, inflation, agrarian distress, education, health, food security, and other sectors, and also the growing struggles on these issues in the state over the last few years, played a major part in ensuring the alienation of the people from the BJP-NDA.

In the agrarian sector, the falling prices of onions, cotton, soyabean, sugarcane, and milk, became a major issue. So also were the recurring droughts, unseasonal rains, and hailstorms, for which no relief was forthcoming.

The anger of the scheme workers and other unorganised sectors was palpable. Naturally, the issue of economic distress had repercussions in all the regions of the state.

As against the election campaign by Modi, Shah, Yogi, Nadda, Fadnavis, and other BJP leaders who only tried to create and intensify communal polarisation, the MVA-I.N.D.I.A election campaign concentrated on these burning issues of the people and tried to put forth alternatives.

The third factor was that of caste, and reservations. This was a direct result of the agrarian crisis and burgeoning unemployment. We have briefly dealt with this in our last piece, hence no repetition is necessary.

But it should be noted that in the Marathwada region, where the Maratha quota stir was the most intense, the BJP could not win even a single of the eight MP seats in the region. In other regions also it hit the BJP.

Another significant feature of this election was the massive support of Muslims and other minorities to the MVA-I.N.D.I.A bloc. This support also extended to the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray) group, because of it being a part of the MVA along with the Congress and the NCP, and also because Uddhav Thackeray as Chief Minister, and later, had taken a secular stand, which was the opposite of his father.

The fourth factor was the people themselves partly isolating the traditional spoilers like the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) led by Prakash Ambedkar, and the AIMIM led by Asaduddin Owaissi. Although the VBA put up its candidates in around 35 Lok Sabha seats, unlike in 2019, it could not fully achieve its desired aim of helping the BJP win. In the Akola Lok Sabha seat in Vidarbha, which Prakash Ambedkar himself contested, he came third behind the BJP and the Congress. In three other seats also, viz. Buldhana, Hatkanangale, and Mumbai North West, the votes polled by the VBA were more than the victory margins of the BJP-NDA candidates. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the VBA had helped the BJP-NDA to win in 11 seats.

The fifth factor was the attack on Maharashtrian identity and pride. In the past few years, a large number of industries and projects which had been earmarked for Maharashtra were arbitrarily shifted to Gujarat by the Modi regime.

This was a source of great heartburn, because it adversely affected employment and development. On top of that, in his election speeches in Maharashtra, Modi insulted MVA leaders by calling Sharad Pawar a “bhatakti aatma” (wandering soul).

He also called Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena a “nakli” (fake) Sena. All this was naturally used by the MVA campaign to attack the BJP-NDA for insulting Maharashtrian identity and pride. This issue had big repercussions throughout the state.

The sixth factor was that, even so far as the media is concerned, this time several popular independent media outlets and YouTube channels were seen by lakhs of people, giving a stiff competition to the corporate Godi media, and exposing its increasing loss of credibility.

Also, several social organisations came together and hit the streets by organising their own public meetings and other imaginative programmes under different banners, like the ‘Nirbhay Bano Andolan’, ‘Nirdhar Maharashtracha (Determination of Maharashtra)’, and so on. With the encouraging poll results in the country and the state, this trend is sure to intensify in future.

And the seventh and last factor was, of course, the paramount issue in this whole election throughout the country: the defence of democracy, secularism, and the Constitution.

The ‘400 paar’ slogan of the BJP was rightly interpreted by large sections of the people as showing its malignant intention to change and destroy the Constitution, and attack the rights given therein to the economically exploited and the socially oppressed.

This became a major issue for Dalits, because Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar is regarded as one of the prime architects of the Constitution of India. But it was not an issue only for Dalits. It influenced vast sections of the patriotic people in the state and the country.

And the MVA-I.N.D.I.A election campaign rightly concentrated on this issue. This concerted campaign had the desired impact.

After this great victory in the Lok Sabha elections, the MVA-I.N.D.I.A bloc will have to be even more vigilant, and redouble its efforts and its inclusivity to throw the rascals out in the ensuing Vidhan Sabha elections in Maharashtra which will take place in October 2024.

Ashok Dhawale is the National President of All India Kisan Sabha. He is one of the leaders of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha which led a historic one-year long struggle that succeeded in getting the three Farm Laws repealed by the Central Government.