Mumbai: The year's biggest newsmaker Anna Hazare, sweeping of civic polls by the ruling Congress-NCP alliance despite some strain and setback to some key leaders in these elections besides the 'rebellion' of Gopinath Munde dominated Maharashtra's political landscape in 2011. (Agencies)
74-year-old Hazare was the most-talked about Maharashtrian during the year. "I Am Anna Hazare" slogan was likened to the "We Are All Khaled Said" campaign of the Egypt uprising that toppled the Hosni Mobarak regime, and to some, Delhi's Ramlila Maidan resembled Cairo's Tahrir Square.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Industries Minister Narayan Rane, both from Congress, suffered personal setbacks in municipal council elections, which otherwise saw strong performances by the ruling Congress-NCP combine.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan's remark that Congress agreeing to give the key Home portfolio to NCP was a mistake, brought to the fore the underlying unease in state's ruling coalition.
"I think it was a mistake. We should have relooked at it. I don't know of any other coalition government where the portfolios of Home, Finance and Planning are not with the Chief Minister," he had said.
Chavan's remarks made at a time when Home Minister R R Patil (NCP), who had to quit after the 26/11 terror attacks, was under fire over the July 13 Mumbai blasts, added to the discomfiture of his party's ally.
In June, the appointment of Vikas Mathkari as president of BJP's Pune unit led to a buzz that senior leader Munde, who disfavoured it, was leaving the party. In April 2008, Munde had quit all party posts to protest against the appointment of Nitin Gadkari supporter Madhu Chavan as the BJP's Mumbai unit president. Munde was later persuaded to withdraw his resignation.
Lok Sabha and assembly elections were due in 2009 and the party could not afford an important non-Brahmin leader leaving it.
However, this time around Gadkari was himself at the helm of affairs in the BJP. With no major elections round the corner in Maharashtra, the BJP leadership decided not to humour Munde and what looked like a bang ended in a whimper.
Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam's statement that north Indian Mumbaikars can, if they choose to, bring the city to a halt sparked off a controversy, with Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray and his estranged cousin MNS chief Raj condemning him in one voice for playing the "Hindi card" in view of the BMC elections, due in February.
"North Indians play a crucial role in Mumbai. We are told that we, Hindi-speaking migrants, are a burden on Mumbai. This is not true. Actually, it is we who bear Mumbai's burden. If north Indians make up their mind, they can bring Mumbai to a halt," Nirupam had said.
Maharashtra saw statewide protests after the attack on Sharad Pawar in Delhi. Rasta roko were held in various parts, including Pawar's hometown Baramati in Pune district. Hazare's controversial reaction, "Just one slap?", enraged NCP workers who staged protests at Ralegan Siddhi.
Eyebrows were raised over Indiabulls' donation of Rs 2.5 crore to the Bhujbal foundation, headed by Public Works Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, which holds the Nashik Festival.
Bhujbal, however, denied any wrongdoing. "We spend the amount received from the industrial houses and individuals for the Nashik festival. It will be wrong to link the Indiabulls donations to contracts allotted to it," he said.
In November, Prithviraj Chavan completed one year as Chief Minister. Chavan, who spent most of his political life in the corridors of power in Delhi, was catapulted to the highest political office in his home state from the relative obscurity of the backroom of the Prime Minister's office, after his predecessor Ashok Chavan had to step down in the wake of the Adarsh Housing Society controversy.
The Sena-BJP combine roped in the RPI faction led by Ramdas Athawale as electoral partner in the much-hyped 'Shiv Shakti-Bhim Shakti' pact.
"Congress would rely on Dalit votes in elections but forget us later. This stunted RPI's growth at the grassroots and also caused disarray in Dalit leadership," Athawale said, justifying his decision to align with Sena-BJP.
Political rivalry spilled over to the Mumbaikar's plate as Vada pav, a staple teatime snack, became a bone of contention between Congress and Shiv Sena.
Nitesh Rane, son of Narayan Rane, a former Sena Chief Minister and a member in Prithviraj Chavan cabinet, launched the Chhatrapati Vada Pav to counter the Shiv Vada brand launched by Shiv Sena. In 1966, when the Sena was formed, party chief Bal Thackeray had encouraged Marathi people to set up vada pav stalls.
In the civic polls, in Chavan's home town Karad in western Maharashtra, the Lokshahi Vikas Aghadi (Democratic Development Front) of an independent legislator trounced the Janshakti-Krishna panel of the chief minister. The Aghadi bagged 21 of 29 seats, while Chavan's Janshakti-Krishna panel managed just eight seats.
Rane, who led Congress campaign in his home district Sindhudurg in coastal Konkan, was dealt a major blow when his party lost the Vengurla civic council to NCP. All parties had ganged up against the Congress after violence in Vengurla by alleged Rane supporters ahead of the polls.
Rane, however, blasted the media for turning a 'minor' defeat into a 'major' news event. "I lost five seats in Vengurla but the way the media portrayed it was as if I had lost a Lok Sabha seat," he said.
In November, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader and Kolhapur MP Raju Shetty went on a fast to demand hike in sugarcane procurement prices in the state. He also undertook a march from Pandharpur to Baramati, hometown of Sharad Pawar, Union Agriculture Minister. Farmers staged demonstrations and blocked traffic to demand hike in support price for cotton, soyabean and paddy.
In an embarrassment for Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, NCP nominee lost the Khadakwasla assembly seat on his home turf Pune in a bypoll in October, held after the death of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena MLA Ramesh Wanjale. Pawar had fielded Wanjale's widow Harshada.
However, municipal council elections held two months later brought respite to Ajit Pawar as NCP surged ahead of the coalition partner.
In August, police fired on farmers opposing a closed pipeline to supply water from Pavna dam to the limits of Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation near Maval in Pune. Three protesters died and 19 were injured in the incident.
While Hazare didn't directly campaign against any party in the civic polls, he repeatedly slammed the NCP for remaining silent on the Maval firing issue. Despite this, NCP did well in Maval region and, in Hazare's native Ahmednagar district, Congress-NCP combine bagged six of the eight municipal councils where polls were held in December.
It remains to be seen if Hazare's anti-graft movement, which has made waves in most urban areas, will be a factor in municipal corporation elections including those in Mumbai next year.
Mumbai: The year's biggest newsmaker Anna Hazare, sweeping of civic polls by the ruling Congress-NCP alliance despite some strain and setback to some key leaders in these elections besides the 'rebellion' of Gopinath Munde dominated Maharashtra's political landscape in 2011.