NEW DELHI: For a party that played the nationalism card to the hilt, the popular verdict in Maharashtra and Haryana perhaps reminded the BJP of the law of diminishing returns. That coupled with economic slowdown tamped down the saffron euphoria that had swept the country after the Lok Sabha elections landslide in May. The BJP is poised to retain power in both Maharashtra and Haryana, but the verdict mandated it to lean heavily on its allies.
Grand preparations at the BJP headquarters for the projected mammoth victories in the two states in the morning soon gave way to a sombre look. General secretaries went in a huddle with BJP working president J P Nadda, as the focus turned on the see-saw Haryana electoral trends. Only in the late afternoon did BJP national general secretary Arun Singh emerge to sound out about preparations for the Parliamentary Board meeting, besides welcoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah. By then, the party had numbers in place to retain power in Haryana, with five Independents committing support.
In Maharashtra, the BJP-Shiv Sena combine managed to get a simple majority, but with reduced numbers. The BJP tally dipped by 19 — from 122 in 2014 to 103 now, while the Shiv Sena’s numbers slipped by six from 63 to 57. Chief Minister Devendra Fadanvis later mentioned the possible ghar wapsi of 15 Independents, who essentially are BJP and Sena rebels. And, Sena chief Uddhav Thakeray reminded him of the pre-poll 50:50 power sharing formula.
Negating pollsters’ claims of the BJP walking away with near two-thirds majority in both the states, the final outcome showed the limits of the high decibel pitch on the dilution of Article 370 in J&K and muscle-flexing against Pakistan. Maharashtra squeezed the BJP’s numbers where agrarian distress aggravated by droughts and rising unemployment were important factors. While the BJP-Sena combine held onto urban strongholds, the BJP took a blow in rural areas, besides reduced support in Maratha and Dalit constituencies.
In Haryana, the BJP projecting Manohar Lal Khattar polarised Jats into tactical voting against it. With Dalits also moving away, it knocked off over 23 per cent of the votes polled by it in the Lok Sabha polls, with its tally plunging to 36.5 per cent from 59.79 per cent in June. Also, the BJP’s paid for dithering in denying ticket to a few ministers despite adverse feedback against them.
Satraps bring cheers to Cong in Haryana
Seven ministers lost polls in Haryana, besides the BJP’s state unit chief Subhash Barala, who hails from the Jat community. Jat anger is being attributed to the community being pushed to political margins from a position of domination, besides economic slowdown coupled with agrarian distress riling them. However, the BJP is drawing consolation from the fact that the party will retain power in the state where it wasn’t taken seriously until 2014.
On the flip side, the Assembly election results have come as a big boost for the Congress. The poll results are an endorsement of the critical role satraps play in the grand old party. The last minute change in leadership by putting Bhupinder Singh Hooda at the helm helped the party consolidate the Jat votes in Haryana. In the past, the party had performed better in states with strong regional leadership — Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
“The BJP was over-confident and their manifesto did not have anything new to offer. People are very intelligent and they didn’t fall prey to the BJP’s agenda. Leadership change brought confidence in people and party cadre,” said Haryana Congress chief Kumari Selja. Many in the Congress said the party’s performance improved despite the fact that it did not go all-out during campaign and candidates were asked to arrange election related resources themselves, which shows that people are really unhappy with the BJP government.
ASSEMBLY BYPOLL RESULTS:
Arunachal: Independent 1 (+1)
Assam: BJP 3 (0) AIUDF 1 (+1)
Bihar: JD(U) 1(-3) RJD 2(+2) AIMIM 1(+1) LJP1 (0) Ind 1(+1)
Chhattisgarh: Cong 1 (0)
Gujarat: BJP 3 (+1) Cong 3 (+1)
Himachal: BJP 2 (0)
Kerala: CPM 2 (+1) Cong + 4 (-1)
Madhya Pradesh: Cong 1 (+1)
Pondy: Cong 1 (0)
Odisha: BJD 1 (0)
Meghalaya: UDP 1 (0)
Punjab: Cong 3 (+2) SAD 1 (0)
Rajasthan: Cong 1 (+1) Others 1 (0)
Sikkim: BJP 2 (+1) Others 1 (0)
Tamil Nadu: AIADMK 2 (+2)
Telangana: TRS 1 (+1)
UP: BJP 7 (-1) Samajwadi Party 3 (+2) Apna Dal 1 (0)
Bihar: LJP 1 (0)
Maharashtra NCP 1 (0)