National

Economy, rural distress figured in voter choices

Our Bureaus New Delhi/Ahmedabad/Pune | Updated on October 25, 2019 Published on October 24, 2019

The BJP’s dominance was challenged not by the Congress but by economic issues

Ultra nationalism, with an over-emphasis on abrogation of Article 370, in the BJP’s rallies was over-shadowed by economic issues that reflected in the ruling coalition losing much of its sheen in just five months since its stupendous performance in the Lok Sabha elections.

In the Maharashtra Assembly polls and the by-polls in the neighbouring Gujarat, issues related to farmers’ suicides, the slowdown in the auto sector or fair prices for crops generated more conversation than dilution of Article 370. In Haryana, distress sale of crops such as sunflower, jowar and barley below the MSP angered the farmers.

The farmers, an overwhelming number of whom belong to the Jat community which consolidated around the Congress and Dushyant Chautala’s newly-formed party, were also angry about non-payment of sugarcane arrears and volatility in the prices of potatoes, onions and tomatoes.

When residents of the drought-hit Jat taluka of Sangli district gathered to hear Home Minister Amit Shah speak at an election rally, they expected him to answer their questions revolving around farmers’ suffering and the incomplete irrigation projects. But Shah asked them whether they were happy about Article 370.

The results were indicative of this undercurrent in regions like western Maharashtra where the NCP was leading in as many as 28 of the 70-odd seats. In Kolhapur district, for instance, the NCP was dominating 10-12 seats till late afternoon.

NCP President Sharad Pawar, a former Agriculture Minister, underlined the issues that impacted voter behaviour as the results were still pouring in. He said agrarian distress, farmers’ suicides and remunerative prices for produces were “serious” issues which were not addressed by the ruling combine in Maharashtra. He also said that 60 per cent of industries in industrial estates and MIDCs are closed. Experts say that problems faced by more than three million MSMEs are not being addressed by the government.

In neighbouring Gujarat, where bypolls were held, local issues troubled the ruling BJP. For instance, voters in the urban middle-class neighbourhood of Amraiwadi constituency and rural voters in the North Gujarat failed to connect with the rhetoric.

“What concerns the voters is the local issues. The small traders, farmers and retailers are troubled due to economic slowdown. In tead of addressing their concerns and giving them a confidence, the ruling party was busy beating the drums on their move on Article 370, etc. The farm distress situation isn’t still over as yet,” AICC national spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil told BusinessLine.

Of the six seats where by-polls were held in Gujarat, four are located in North Gujarat, while two were in Central Gujarat including an urban seat. The disappointment was so prominent that the voter turnout at Amraiwadi was the lowest at 31.5 per cent.

Published on October 24, 2019
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