Maha, Haryana polls to testify Modi factor in states

Maha, Haryana polls to testify Modi factor in states

If Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in 2018 were considered a semifinal before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Assembly elections in three states, of which the poll dates were announced for two (Maharashtra and Haryana), will be a kind of a endorsement or otherwise of the policies of the Modi 2.0 government.

Though the BJP lost the polls in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh to the Congress— in the last year of Modi’s first tenure —, it decimated the Opposition party in the general elections, held six months later.  

The saffron party swept the state polls held in 2014 end in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand, months after its massive Lok Sabha victory then.

After the same gap after last Lok Sabha polls, voting will take place in the three states this year, Jharkhand being the last in November-December.

The outcome in the current round of Assembly polls will hence settle the issue on whether Modi factor is working equally in both Parliamentary and state elections even in his second term and whether a vote for Modi is still a vote for BJP even in the Assembly polls, too.

In Maharashtra, despite a war of words between BJP's Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeary, the two parties continue to be in alliance.

Though Chief Minister Manoharlal Khattar in Haryana has got some thumbs up due to fairness in recruitment in government jobs and anti-Jat sentiment among other communities, the BJP's predominant theme will be centred around the persona of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the bodywork of his government.

Soon after forming government, the National Register of Citizens was out, an age old promise of the BJP to act against Bangladeshi (Muslim) infiltrators.

Then came the fulfillment of one of the core promises of the BJP— abolition of special status to Jammu and Kashmir granted under Article 370 and 35 A.

It also got Triple Talaq Bill passed, which was considered sort of a forward movement towards realization of Uniform Civil Code.

However, the gains from the fresh build up of nationalistic fervour seemed slipping away as economy slowdown kicked in affecting jobs and growth.

The government came out in damage control mode, announcing booster doses to revive the scenario. The BJP is also very hopeful that the nationalistic sentiment kicked in after the removal of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir will override these issues.

Hence Article 370, NRC and triple talaq top the menu of speeches of all top leaders in poll-bound states.

In Maharashtra much will also depend on the role the spoilers play for the respective sides— Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA).

While Thackeray who met Congress president Sonia Gandhi in July, is expected to make a dent in the prospects of the BJP-Shiv Sena combine, the VBA, which in the previous Lok Sabha elections substantially damaged the prospects of the Congress-NCP in a number of seats by cornering away a chunk of Scheduled Caste votes, is expected to benefit the BJP again by default.

In Haryana Jat leader Om Prakash Chautala’s party is a divided house with his grandson and former Lok Sabha MP from Hisar Dushyant Chautala floating a new party— Jannayak Janata Party (JJP).

At a time when the BJP has gone for a non-Jat consolidation in Haryana by handing over the leadership to Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, a Khatri Punjabi, the Congress seems to have reposed its faith in the formidable jat leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who served as Haryana's chief minister for two terms between 2005 and 2014.

By appointing a prominent Scheduled Caste face of the state Kumari Selja as party unit chief, the Congress has also reached out to the Scheduled Castes.

However, working out a Jat-Scheduled Caste unity is a formidable challenge in a state where a number of incidents of atrocities on Scheduled Castes have been recorded in the past.

The result of Jind bypoll in January in which the BJP won the seat defeating JJP ’s Digvijay Singh Chautala and Congress candidate Randeep Surjewala is a warning signal for the Opposition, which is trying to build up lack of governance under Khattar as an issue after the violent Jat agitations of 2016.