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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 45, New Delhi, October 26, 2019

Assembly Poll Verdict Stuns BJP

Monday 4 November 2019

POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

The final results of Maharashtra and Haryana Assembly polls are yet to come, but the broad picture is clear enough. In Maharashtra the BJP’s loyal propagandists masquerading as psephologists had been predicting the party would make a clean sweep by winning about 230 to 240 seats. They have been found to have gone very wide of the mark. But they need not be either ashamed or apologetic. They have loyally served their paymasters.

In the event the BJP has ended up at 160 plus, with its ally Shiv Sena retaining its strongholds. If about a dozen and a half more seats could have been won by the Opposition, the BJP would have by now been licking its wounds and cooling its heels, sitting in the Opposition benches. In Haryana the BJP has been defeated decisively. It has won 30 plus seats in a House of 90, well short of the halfway mark.

And all this has happened despite the immense financial resources of the BJP, despite the huge cadre base of all the Hindutva outfits and despite the known liking of the Electronic Voting Machines for the saffron colour. This last cannot be cheering news either for the BJP or for the gentlemen adorning the Election Commission who had given clean chits to Narendra Modi and Amit Shah every time there was a complaint against them during the poll campaign of gross violation of the Model Code of Conduct. The poll body can be browbeaten into submission but not the people.

Now the exercise for government formation will begin. In Maharashtra, the BJP and its ally Shiv Sena will no doubt form the government but the Shiv Sena this time will be more assertive. The BJP has suffered more heavily than the SS. In 2014, the BJP won 122 seats and the SS 63. This time, the SS has more or less retained its strength. The Shiv Sena chief has already laid down his terms—rotational chief minister-ship for two and a half years for both parties and deputy chief ministership for the SS for one half of the term. Then, there will have to be equal represen-tation of the two parties in Cabinet formation. How far and for how long the BJP will be willing to accommodate the SS, the coming days will tell.

In Haryana at the time of writing, the situation is fluid. Both the BJP and the Congress have sent out feelers to the Jananayaka Janata Party (JJP) chief Dushyant Chautala who is at the moment keeping his cards close to his chest. He is basking in the glory of being the king-maker. Now in his early thirties, will he insist on being made the Chief Minister?

Both the States have given a clear message to the BJP. Narendra Modi’s charisma is wearing out as hard economic problems make the daily life of the common people increasingly difficult. As the economic crisis deepens, disillusionment and discontent of the people will grow apace.

The Congress has given a creditable account of itself—the more so in Maharashtra. The party does not have a President. It has managed to make Sonia Gandhi the Working President and is still in search of a full-time incumbent. It is in no position to compete with the BJP in terms of resources. To make matter worse, the Congress saw many of its State leaders in Maharashtra desert the party and join the BJP on the eve of the elections. In spite of its state of demoralisation, organisational disarray and lack of direction, the party has given a far better account of itself than even its most optimistic supporters believed. The NCP too was in a similar situation but the old war-horse Sharad Pawar fought a remarkable battle and the NCP has emerged as a major force in the State as in the past. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah’s fond dream of making India Congress-mukt is evaporating. If wishes were horses...

October 24 B.D.G.

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