Maharashtra is the second largest State in India in terms of the number of Lok Sabha seats. Amongst the top five States sending the largest contingent of parliament members, Maharashtra was the only State wherein the Congress was able to retain power for significant years in the post-1989 phase of Indian politics. However, the Congress system in the State collapsed in 2013-14 due to its inability to face the massive ‘Modi-wave’, which has paved the way for the ‘skinny dominance’ of Bharatiya Janata Party in the State. Suhas Palshikar and Rajeshwari Deshpande’s book elaborately discusses the context and issues leading to the decline and fall of the Congress-system in Maharashtra along with the current phase of the State’s politics.
In the context of Maharashtra, the Congress-system is broadly defined by Palshikar and Deshpande as the skillful ability of the grand old party to stitch together and maintain an umbrella of social coalitions and political elites. The next two chapters discuss the politics in the State from 1960 to 1989-90. While the analogy of the fall of the Congress system at the national level and in Maharashtra is indisputable, the authors perceptively place it within State-specific nuances. The first major jolt to the Congress hegemony in the State of Maharashtra came in the aftermath of the Emergency even though it could resurrect itself under the leadership of Indira Gandhi in the 1980s. Thus, the Congress dominance in Maharashtra continued up to 1989-90 as was the case at the national level. The Congress Party’s centrality became shaky and uncertain from this period till 2012-13 and almost crumbled in 2013-14. During this period, while the Congress managed to lead the Union government for 15 years (Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh governments), in Maharashtra the Congress was in power from 1990 to 1995 and 1999 to 2014 (along with the Nationalist Congress Party of Sharad Pawar). The two other Congress parallels to such electoral performances broadly in this period were Delhi under the leadership of Sheila Dixit and Assam under the leadership of Tarun Gogoi. In Delhi, Assam and Maharashtra, the Congress-system declined or collapsed under the onslaught of the Modi-wave. However, in these two States and one half-State located at different geographical locations with each having a distinct demography and unique political history, there are immensely localized contexts to the Congress defeats in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections post 2013-14.