NEW DELHI: The BJP dispelled all talk of the Modi wave receding by wresting two key states from a long near-monopolistic hold of the Congress. What makes the victory even more noteworthy is the fact that the BJP is practically making its debut in both Maharashtra and Haryana as a solo player of consequence, in turn heating up the race for the chief ministerial post.
The “go it alone” strategy, which had come under question after the bypoll results in Bihar and UP, earned handsome dividends in what are virgin political territories in many ways. The 122/288 result in Maharashtra, India’s third largest State, naturally carries more consequences. It’s one of the country’s richest and most industrialised states and this victory comes in the face of stiff opposition from local heavyweight Shiv Sena with which BJP had an acrimonious divorce in the run-up to the elections.
As other parties suffered a four-way split of votes, the BJP saw a huge spike in its vote share from 14.02 per cent in 2009 to 27.8 per cent now. The only drawback is that it had rested its whole strategy on being able to breach the half-way mark on its own — with Prime Minister Narendra Modi carpet-bombing the State with an intensive campaign of 27 rallies. The Sena tried playing up the Gujarati-vs-Marathi debate but Modi’s “good governance” pitch proved to be more appealing to the voters who were desperate for a change. Pictured against the maximal ambition, the final result for the BJP is a bit modest and about 23 seats short of a majority. It may now have to go with the same estranged, embittered ally to deliver a government. Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah received congratulatory calls from Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray “ready for any proposal” with 63 MLAs.
The negotiations warmed up by Sunday afternoon as the NCP offered its outside support to the BJP, affording the latter extra leverage and bargaining power. But indications are that there will be an attempt to placate the former ally with the post of the Deputy CM and a few ministries, while the CM’s post may go to State BJP chief Devendra Fadnavis. That will underline the situation for the BJP in a State, which despite being the home of its ideological fountainhead RSS, has never given the party much of a base.
In the much smaller political landscape of Haryana, equations are simpler. The BJP has a clear, comfortable majority of 47 seats in the 90-seat Assembly. The State saw the taint of the Robert Vadra-DLF association really hurt the Congress, which was reduced to 15 seats.
Jats — the dominant agrarian community in Haryana — turned towards the BJP. A three-way split in Jat votes didn’t pan out as predicted, especially after the OBC/Dalit votes too poured in for Modi’s promise of “acche din”. The result was a remarkable spike in vote share from 9.04 per cent in 2009 to an unprecedented 33.2 per cent this time.