Thursday, June 20, 2024

Lok Sabha Election 2024: Why did the Congress retreat from the stronghold of Vidarbha?

Pramod Chanchuwar

Vidarbha was once known as a Congress stronghold. In the 1977 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress won a majority of seats in Vidarbha, when there was a nationwide uproar against Indira Gandhi after the imposition of Emergency. Veterans like Vasantrao Sathe, Vasantrao Naik, Gav Awari were then elected to Lok Sabha on Congress ticket. (Lok Sabha Election 2024)

Congress got veteran leaders in Vidarbha. Vidarbha also got the chief ministership of the state in the form of Marotrao Kannamwar, Vasantrao Naik, Sudhakarrao Naik. Along with these leaders, Vidarbha was blessed with legendary leaders like Nasikrao Tirpude, Abasaheb Khedkar, Srikant Jichkar. Congress was strong in Vidarbha then because of these leaders. However, factionalism within the Congress increased later. The Congress party began to be made up of a handful of leaders instead of workers. Leaders became more interested in increasing their own wealth than serving society. Congress closed the work by taking questions from common people. Gradually, the Congress started to lose its connection with the land. (Lok Sabha Election 2024)

At the same time, after 1990, this situation gradually changed. Demolition of Babri Masjid, Ram Mandir started increasing BJP's strength. All the major leaders of BJP were from Vidarbha. Along with this, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's headquarters was also in Vidarbha, so BJP started to grow.

BJP mainly took up the issue of independent Vidarbha. He presented with various statistics how injustice is being done to Vidarbha as the leadership of Congress is from western Maharashtra. He convinced the people of Vidarbha that industrial projects in Vidarbha were diverted to western Maharashtra, irrigation projects in Vidarbha were denied funding. Sharad Pawar was then leading the lobby of Congress leaders in West Maharashtra. Due to this, anger started building in Vidarbha against Pawar and Congress. In 1994, when Sharad Pawar was the Chief Minister, more than 100 people of the Gowari community who were agitating for reservation during the winter session of Nagpur were killed in a stampede. With this incident, the people of Vidarbha went into a state of mind to vote against the Congress. In Vidarbha, whoever has the majority in the Legislative Assembly gets the power of the state. (Lok Sabha Election 2024)

This is why the first non-Congress government came into being in the state in 1995 under the leadership of Shiv Sena-BJP. Because in this election Congress got a big shock in Vidarbha. BJP used this power to strengthen its grip. The strength of BJP increased due to leaders like Nitin Gadkari, Sudhir Mungantiwar, Devendra Fadnavis. After Devendra Fadnavis became Chief Minister in 2014 and Gadkari became a Minister at the Centre, BJP has tried to strengthen its position by bringing various development projects in Nagpur. Due to all these efforts, Vidarbha, once a stronghold of Congress, has now become a stronghold of BJP. Therefore, in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, whether the BJP will retain its stronghold or whether the Congress will improve its performance, everyone's attention is on.

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