By Prashant Hamine
Mumbai: In a little over 45 days from now the 8.94 crore electorate of Maharashtra will elect a new 14th Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, and technically its 24th Chief Minister. Between 1957 to 1995, for nearly 38 years the Congress dominated the Legislative Assembly with absolute, often brute majority. Right from the 1957 legislative assembly of the then undivided State of Bombay where the Congress had won 234 seats, consistently kept on winning 200 plus seats until the 1972 Assembly elections. It is a feat since then has never been matched or broken by any other political party, let alone the Congress itself. Just like the 11 plus years long rule of Vasantrao Naik.
General elections to the legislative assembly until 1999 were mostly held either in the month of February or March. However, the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led Shivshahi government prematurely dissolving the lower house, elections since then are being held in September-October. The 1999 and 2009 Assembly elections are seen as a turning point in the electoral fortunes of the Sena and the BJP, and the dwindling numbers especially of the Congress.
In the 1957 elections to the undivided State of Bombay assembly, the Congress had won 234 out of the 339 assembly seats, Yashwantrao Balwantrao Chavan (or better known as Y B Chavan) who had then won from the Karad North assembly constituency later on became first Chief Minister of new state of Maharashtra and first in the long list of 20 Congress Chief Ministers that the state has seen since then. Out of the 339 assembly seats, 118 seats were from Gujarat region.
An electorate of 1.93 crore voters voted in the elections
registering a polling percentage of 60.36 percent.
Out of the 264 seats, 217 were general, 33 SC and 14 ST seats.
In all 2.44 crore electorate had voted, clocking a voting percentage of 53.16 percent for a 339 member house which had 266 general seats, 42 seats reserved for Schedule Castes (SC) and 31 seats for the Schedule Tribes (ST). The only real opposition to the Congress then were the 36 MLAs of Praja Socialist Party (PSP), 31 MLAs of Peasants and Workers Party of India (PWPI) and the staggering 64 Independent MLAs. The elections then were held on February 25, 1957 and only 8 political parties took part in it.
After the formation of Maharashtra on May 1, 1960, the assembly elections for a 264 member house was held on February 19, 1962 in which 11 political parties participated. An electorate of 1.93 crore voters voted in the elections registering a polling percentage of 60.36 percent. Out of the 264 seats, 217 were general, 33 SC and 14 ST seats. In that election, Congress won 215 seats and the winners included noted multi-faceted personality of Prahlad Keshav Atre who was elected as an Independent MLA.
The 1967 assembly elections saw the beginning of a more than five decade long political career of PWPI veteran Ganpatrao Deshmukh from Sangola. It was also history in the making as late Vasantrao Naik began his 11 and a half long uninterrupted stint in 1963 as longest serving Chief Minister of the Congress till 1975. In all 10 political parties participated in the polls that were held on February 21, 1967 for 270 seats, which included 239 general, 15 SC and 16 ST seats. An electorate of 2.21 crore had voted and the polling percentage then was 64.84 percent. The Congress then had swept the polls winning 203 seats.
The Shiv Sena made its first formal foray into electoral politics by contesting the 1972 assembly elections for the first time. Pramod Navalkar was its lone voice representing the Girgaon seat. It also marked the split in the Indian National Congress and the entry of A R Antulay. In all 15 political parties took part in the polls, where an electorate of 2.58 crore had voted and the polling percentage was 60.63 percent. In the elections held on March 5, 1972, the Congress yet again swept the polls winning 222 seats out of the 270 seats. It was the last of the elections before the Delimitation of the assembly constituencies happened before the 1978 assembly elections.