Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Opinion | Rise of the new class of voters who support BJP

This new class is possessed with the idea of New India, and Modi embodies that idea

The 2014 elections showed that politics in Maharashtra makes adjustments with the national politics of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The 2019 elections again show the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance ahead of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, though there is no powerful Modi wave. In fact, the sentiment is against the BJP now. Yet, politics here seems to be centred around the BJP.

Since 2014, Marathas have openly embraced Hindutva politics. Various neo-Buddhist and Republican factions have also teamed up with the BJP. These show Maharashtra’s Hindutva politics has not remained exclusive and hostile to groups that were earlier not comfortable with it. Also, other regions of the state have become opposed to the hegemony of western Maharashtra. This led to the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) losing their support in these regions, and increasing accommodation of the BJP across regions. The acceptance of Hindutva by the Marathas has been concomitant with the increasing opposition to the Marathas. This was evident in the opposition to dynasty politics, disproportionate participation of the Marathas in power, and to the demands raised by the Marathas during their silent marches. Also, the caste-specific structures built by non-BJP politicians has disintegrated, and many Maratha leaders have joined the BJP.

These changes also influenced the relationship between the BJP and Shiv Sena. But the BJP benefitted the most due to its greater ability to convert new voters into supporters. In Mumbai, this is seen in the BJP getting support from non-Marathi and Marathi voters, putting Shiv Sena in a dilemma.

All these have led to the establishment and mainstreaming of a new class of followers and a neo-intellectual class that supports the BJP. This class is distinct from the erstwhile Warkari (those attending the annual pilgrimage to Lord Vitthal temple in Pandharpur) class of spiritual followers, since it has greater power to influence elections. More than 50% of the Warkari community has also joined this class. This new class accounts for 11% of Maharashtra’s population and around 250,000 in each Lok Sabha constituency. This class typically votes almost en bloc against those parties and politicians who have strayed from the state’s spiritual traditions.

Since the BJP has the clearest policy on this new class, it gets the maximum chunk of their votes and loyalty. This class has also established deep social and religious ties at the micro level through a network of charitable and spiritual organizations, groups, and leaders, and uses it to establish a political connect.

This new class is different from the old white-collar class in many ways. It essentially has a neo-liberal approach to politics. While the Congress-NCP emphasized on industrialization of that helped them establish ties with the top corporates, the New India has disrupted these old ties. Also, support for the BJP has increased manifold in the corporate sector. This class is possessed with the idea of New India and Narendra Modi is the embodiment of that idea. There is a great synergy at work between the NITI Aayog, for instance, and several think tanks and advisory groups in Maharashtra that are peopled by this new class. This class is fighting the BJP’s battles in Maharashtra and that is a paradigm shift.

Prakash Pawar is a professor of political science at the Shivaji University, Kolhapur.