BJP returns to power in Maharashtra, jolted in Jatland

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives to address his supporters at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi on Thursday. PTI

The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance is set to return to power in Maharashtra, albeit with a reduced seat tally, while in Haryana the saffron party, caught off-guard by a resurgent Congress, is looking to cobble up an alliance to stay in power due to a hung result.

In Maharashtra, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance is close to winning 161 of the total 288 seats, down 28 from the 185 seats they won in 2014 when they fought separately.

The BJP won 105 assembly seats compared to 122 it had won last time, while the Sena won 56 seats, seven less from the 63 seats it had won in the last Assembly polls. On the Opposition side, the NCP won 54 seats while the Congress slipped behind its alliance partner in an inept display, as it managed to win just 44 seats.

In Haryana, the BJP, which had coined the slogan “Abki baar 75 paar” (this time we will cross 75 seats), had to contend with just 40 seats in the 90-member Haryana assembly, seven down from the 47 seats it had won in 2014 Assembly polls. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, it was ahead in 79 of the 90 Assembly segments, when it had got 58 per cent votes and won all the 10 Lok Sabha seats.

Stung by the results, the BJP put up a brave face, hailing the second victory in the “never a BJP bastion” as “no mean achievement”, even as the Opposition parties sought to singe it over the reduced mandate.

Defending the performance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah said repeating the government in the two states is not a mean feat.

Besides, Modi said both chief ministers Devendra Fadnavis and Manohar Lal Khattar were new to governance yet they won the trust of the people.

While the BJP’s vote share in Haryana fell by nearly 22 percent in comparison to the percentage of votes it had got in Lok Sabha polls, Modi and Shah said the fact that the BJP had got three percent more votes in Haryana than the 2014 assembly polls is in itself not a small thing.

In Haryana, the Congress, which had been written off by most political pundits, doubled its seat tally, mostly riding on the consolidation of Jat votes (27 percent in the state) after projecting former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda as its face. The result settled the old versus new debate in Haryana Congress in favour of the former.

The Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), led by former Lok Sabha MP Dushyant Chautala, one of the grandsons of Om Prakash Chautala, rose from the ashes of the Indian National Lok Dal of ‘tau’ Devilal, with the party emerging as the kingmaker winning 10 seats in its first political outing and clearly claiming the Chautala legacy.

There are vital lessons for the Opposition and the BJP from the results. The BJP’s perpetual tendency to deploy nationalist rhetoric to corner the Opposition might need a rethink.

During the polls, the saffron party raised the pitch on the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, NRC, triple talaq and the memory of Balakot terror strike. It doesn’t seemed to have worked. Instead, issues like economic slowdown and unemployment raised by the Opposition seemed to have impacted the results.

Maharashtra and Haryana Assembly polls were the first major electoral exercise after 2019 general elections that happened amid an economic crisis that led to substantial cut in jobs, and, clearly, the issues weighed on the minds of people.

Both regional parties, the Shiv Sena in the NDA led by 29-year-old Aditya Thackeray and the NCP led by 78-year-old Sharad Pawar in the UPA performed better than their lead partners the BJP and the Congress.

The results might force BJP to do some sort of reality check as to what actually spooked its momentum. While BJP could not get the anticipated results, the Opposition has still to gain lot of ground before it can halt the BJP’s juggernaut. 

This was also the first election for the Congress post Rahul Gandhi quitting as party president.

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