A statistical analysis of trends and results. A close reading of figures suggests Congress’ future in Maharashtra could be bleaker than most anticipate.

The recently concluded Maharashtra Assembly Elections 2014 helped BJP consolidate its position in the western half of India. One can now drive from the verdant beaches of South Goa to the feisty Wagah border in Amritsar exclusively through NDA ruled states.

The Maharashtra mandate has been differently interpreted by different parties and their supporters. The elections throw up some very interesting conclusions based on the poll data. While every party has some macro trends and views to deal with, there are some hidden messages in the underlying data. Based on the data sourced from the ECI Results website, here are a few hypotheses and qualitative observations.

1. Saffronization of Mumbai

BJP and Shiv Sena along with their allies polled 60% of all Mumbai votes. If NDA and UPA alliances stayed the way they were, NDA would have won 34 of the 36 Mumbai seats. UPA would have retained only 1 seat – Chandivali, while leading NDA in another one – Mankhurd-Shivajinagar, which Samajwadi Party would have anyone won marginally.

Even if Congress has retained some presence – 5 wins and 7 runner ups, NCP was totally wiped out in the city – only 1 runner up slot and 2 third place slots.

Here is how Mumbai polled.


(1) Did not contest Byculla (2) Did not contest Mankhurd-Shivajinagar, allies in Chembur, Vikhroli, Chandivali (3) Chembur (RPIA), Vikhroli (RPIA), Chandivali (Independent) (4) Did not contest Byculla (5) Byculla (ABS)

It is easy to say that this Congress downfall is reversible. But with this staggering fall on all but a few seats where local demographics explain the story – can Congress revive itself? Is this election a permanent shift away from Congress (and NCP) in the city of Mumbai? We will have to wait for the BMC election to find out!

2. Pune Goes Back A Century?

Pune has 4 Lok Sabha constituencies – Pune, Baramati, Shirur and Maval, with 6 assembly seats each. We’re excluding data from 3 assembly constituencies that make up Maval as they fall in the Raigad district.

Of the remaining 21 seats BJP  got 11, its  allies 1 and the RSP-Shiv Sena combine got 3 seats. NCP scored 3 seats – all in the bastion of Baramati Lok Sabha seat.  Congress got 1 seat – also in the Baramati Lok Sabha seat, and MNS too scored just 1 – where vote division helped it first past the post.

Here is how Pune looked.

(1) Did not contest Pimpri and Daund, (2) Pimpri (RPIA), Daund (RSP) (3) Did not contest Indapur, Baramati, Purandar, Bhor and Ambegaon 

The Congress story is again curious. In 2/3rds of the seats – 14 out of 21, Congress stood 4th or lower. Overall, of the 42.7L votes polled across these 21 seats, Congress only got 5.1L or about 12%.

Congress set embarrassing lows in several places, where it’s numbers mirrored those of small time independents or local parties, not that of a party of 130 year old vintage. Sample these:

– Daund (1,483 out of 199,481 votes or 0.7%)

– Khed Alandi (1,974 out of 200,036 or 0.9%)

– Ambegaon (2,408 out of 193,539 or 1.2%)

– Baramati (4,013 out of 228,230 or 1.8%)

– Shirur (4,246 out of 216,218 or 2.0%)

Just like Mumbai, there is a lot for Congress to introspect in Pune. While in Mumbai, favorable alliances would have decimated all opposition, Congress has squarely lost out to NCP as the principal opposition party in Pune.

For the BJP, the 8 Pune city seats come across as a huge shot in the arm. All 5 parties had their own pockets of strength in the city. In a true multi-cornered fight, BJP swept these 8 seats comfortably: Kothrud (51.2%), Parvati (50.4%), Khadakwasala (47.4%), Kasba Peth (43.4%), Pune Cantonment (39.7%), Shivajinagar (38%), Hadapsar (37.9%) and Vadagaon Sheri (30.2%).

BJP routinely refers to the ideologies of Tilak and Savarkar in its worldview and definition of nationalism. About a century back, both these stalwarts were shaping these ideologies, leading to changes in the way the roadmap to independence played out. Over time, Pune politics came to be heavily Congress and NCP dominated – partly due to strong individuals and partly due to caste equations.

The saffron sweep and  the emerging dominance of BJP is something of a reset.

3. The Curious Case of MNS in Mumbai, Pune and Nashik

In the last edition of city civic polls, MNS had performed strongly in the three cities which triangulate to form the industrial hub of the state. MNS controlled the Nashik municipal corporation by itself, and was the principal opposition in Pune. They hold enough seats to insure Shiv Sena against a BJP pull out in the BMC too.

The Chart below shows how MNS performed in each of the three metro areas.

Of the 63 seats in these three metro cities, MNS won 1 seat where the BJP-Shiv Sena divide helped its candidate. 3 of the 4 runner up positions went to its stalwarts – Nitin Sardesai (Mahim), Bala Nandgaonkar (Shivadi), and Vasant Gite (Nashik Central). The 4th one was a mathematical situation in Vikhroli where NCP and Congress vote split and poor showing of RPIA helped its candidate to the second position.

While the MNS vote share in the assembly election as a whole was 3.1%, these three erstwhile strongholds produced 7.8% share only – a big climb down from the highs of 2009-2011.

Those who studied the MNS poll literature would argue that it had some very good and relevant points in the manifesto – far more focused and hard hitting than any of the other parties. But the campaign they ran was indifferent and insipid.

If the party could get a top 3 position only in 12/57 strongest seats, it does not bode well for future. If the BJP-Shiv Sena standoff worsens and if Shiv Sena becomes the principal opposition party in the state, it would be fair to assume that part of the MNS cadre will rethink its position and loyalties.

Just like the AAP movement of 2012-13, a part of Maharashtra intelligentsia is heavily invested in MNS even now. They will have a tough call to make if the party does not engage in a heavy clean up act.

4. Should the Media Say “Ugate AIMIM Ko Namaskar?”

All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) contested in Maharashtra for the first time in 24 seats. Their choice of seats was calibrated – they did not rush in for many seats and in fact ignored several “adjacent” seats which logically made sense to contest from their point of view.

This was a measured debut and clearly there was a specific thought process behind it. The party covered most regions across the state when choosing its 24 seats.

If one takes a view of these seats in totality, AIMIM was the third largest party behind BJP and Congress on these 24 seats.

(1) Contested 22 of the 24 seats, missing Mankhurd Shivajinagar and Malegaon Central, (2) Contested 23 of the 24 seats, missing Versova, (3) Contested 23 of the 24 seats, missing Byculla, (4) Contested 21 of the 24 seats, missing Bhiwandi West, Bhiwandi East and Malegaon Central

AIMIM not just won 2 seats, the party candidates also did well on several seats, upsetting existing political equations. The party had a top 3 finish in more than half the seats contested. The table below shows how AIMIM performed in the seats contested:

AIMIM had more than 20% votes in 5 seats, which is very impressive for a first time party with no real cadre or grassroots presence. It only won 2 of these 5 (Byculla, Aurangabad Central), losing the other 3 closely (Aurangabad East by 2.4% points to BJP, Solapur City Central by 6% points to Congress and Parbhani by 13.9% points to Shiv Sena).

If we assume that the AIMIM vote was fully transferrable to either Congress or NCP (whichever was the strongest party on a given seat), AIMIM caused one upset for Congress . Congress lost the Bhiwandi West seat to BJP by a margin that was lesser than the number of votes AIMIM polled.

AIMIM polled more votes than Congress in 9 seats and within 2% of Congress votes in further 2 seats. So on almost half the seats AIMIM contested, it straightaway emerged as a credible challenger to Congress cutting into its traditional vote bank.

In the seats that AIMIM contested, Samajwadi Party had candidates on 10 seats. It managed to get more votes than AIMIM only on 2 – Mankhurd Shivajinagar and Bhiwandi East. Had all AIMIM votes in Bhiwandi East gone to Abu Farhan Azmi, the SP candidate who came in third, he would have been behind the winning Shiv Sena candidate by just 1.4K votes.

Interesting, AIMIM also fielded 3 Hindu candidates – Kurla, Akkalkot and Solapur South. It appears that they were testing a BSP type strategy on a few seats, trying to sew up a social coalition of sorts. This approach seemed to have worked in Kurla where they stood 3rd ahead of Congress, NCP and MNS and were in striking distance of the 2nd spot.

The rise of AIMIM in Maharashtra is spectacular given the limited seats they contested. The party will definitely eye coming elections in the next 3 years, which include Bihar, UP and Karnataka. Their rise will cause serious concern for parties like Congress and Samajwadi Party and regional satraps like Janata Dal United and Janata Dal Secular.

BJP is in a very interesting position vis-à-vis the AIMIM rise. They stand to gain the most from them their polar opposite party if the Maharashtra experiment scales up in Bihar and UP. Will AIMIM be to BJP what MNS was to UPA in 2009 Maharashtra Lok Sabha election?

5. Urban Areas – the BJP Stronghold

That BJP expands in all new geographies it breaks in via urban vote is well established. That has been case when BJP started winning seats regularly in North and West – in MP, Rajasthan and Gujarat. A similar story played out in this Maharashtra elections.

Other than dominating Mumbai (15/36) and Pune (12/21), BJP swept Nagpur (6/6) and also did well in Nashik (3/6), Aurangabad (2/6), Thane (9/24), and Solapur (2/6). The only exception was Kolhapur (1/6) where BJP could not make an impact. It is important to note that in several of these seats in Nashik, Thane, Solapur and Kolhapur, the party has almost had no presence given the past alliance with Shiv Sena and was contesting the polls for the first time.

Had the elections taken place only on urban and semi-urban seats, BJP would have crossed the half way mark comfortably, despite not contesting all the seats involved.

Congress and NCP continue to retain their rural base, mainly on account of strong individual presence and role of traditional “chieftains” who control and guard their constituencies closely. While BJP managed to get some of this variety of leaders in urban pockets to defect, the same proved difficult in the rural areas.

If we exclude Solapur and Kolhapur – the relatively new areas for BJP and look at other urban areas – Mumbai, Thane, Nashik, Nagpur, Pune and Aurangabad – BJP and its allies polled 31.2% of votes in the corresponding 99 seats. This was 2.2% points higher than their overall state tally.

While BJP looks all set to form a government now, it still should not rest on the laurels of breaking ground in Maharashtra. There is enough evidence to suggest that this win was circumstantial rather than institutionalized, and the new government will have to invest time and effort in building equity. The new government will have to specially focus on Konkan and Marathwada areas where BJP had the worst seat conversion across all areas.

This election marked several reversals in the Maharashtra politics – movement away from traditional caste lines, fall of some big names and the emergence of a single party with more than 100 seats for the first time in many years. The key for BJP will be to convert these onetime / first time events to a lasting process, like the way they have done in MP and Gujarat.

BJP will do well to remember that even in their strongholds of MP and Rajasthan, the first state win did not last very long. The state today sits on a mountain of debt, overflowing cities, poor perception of government agencies and governance processes and creaking infrastructure. The task for the new government is cut out – there is a lot to fix and turn around while dealing with the perils of running a minority government or a government with the support of mercurial allies.

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