Maharashtra & Beyond
The Times of India Mumbai|November 05, 2021
Message from bypolls is that leadership matters, from Uddhav to Mamata to Himanta
Neerja Chowdhury

By-elections are normally about local factors. On the whole, they favor the ruling party in the state. It’s when the results are different that they attract attention.

There are several takeaways from the just-concluded bypolls to 30 state assemblies and three Lok Sabha constituencies in 13 states. The rise of Congress in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka at the cost of incumbent BJP has naturally cheered up Congress and pressed panic buttons in BJP. But BJP and its allies have swept in Assam and the Northeast of India.

Elections in India are mostly about caste and community. But these bypolls have underscored another emerging reality – that polls in India are becoming as much about “leadership” as anything else.

Maharashtra is a good example. Shiv Sena’s first Lok Sabha win outside Maharashtra, in Dadra Nagar Haveli, is about leadership. From the moment the previous winner’s husband died in mysterious circumstances earlier this year, Uddhav Thackeray’s party snapped up his widow, stood by her side solidly, and took her to victory.

Surprisingly, Uddhav’s understated leadership style has mostly gone down well with people in Maharashtra. One of the reasons for the MVA coalition lasting so long – it is now half way into its term – is that Uddhav has burnt his boats with BJP. Such is the bitterness generated between him and BJP, that for now, he is not prepared to look at BJP as an option.

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