Message for BJP, lifeline for Cong

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives to address his supporters after the party's victory in both Haryana and Maharashtra Assembly polls

The BJP has emerged the single largest party in both Maharashtra and Haryana but has fallen short of the half-way mark in both states, which is a clear message that the party cannot always ride on emotive issues like nationalism and reap rich dividends forever. The Congress has no reason to be euphoric either, though the voters have cast the party a lifeline to save it from a total rout that pre and post-poll surveys had predicted. One of the biggest takeaways is the stellar performance of regional parties. In Maharashtra, the ageing Sharad Pawar stood his ground even in the light of senior lieutenants deserting him and almost single-handedly ensured a new lease of life for the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). In Haryana, Dushyant Chautala’s newly formed Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) could emerge the kingmaker, with the elections throwing up a hung assembly. The confidence reposed by the voters in regional outfits, including the Shiv Sena, is an indication that neither regional parties nor bread-and-butter issues are dead. Large segments of voters are not swayed by the whipping up of nationalism and national security in every election. Where there are credible regional alternatives, people tend to vote for them in state elections.

The results are undoubtedly a setback for the BJP, which won a brute majority in the Lok Sabha elections less than six months ago. While in Haryana it will need outside support to form the government, in Maharashtra the party had hoped to win 150 seats itself and over 220 seats in alliance with Shiv Sena in the 288-member House, with its slogan, ‘Abhi Baar, 220 paar’. The BJP will do well to realise that patience is wearing thin on the ground due to the economic slowdown, and mere sloganeering will not fill hungry stomachs nor create jobs. On the other hand, it is a miracle that the Congress has marginally improved its tally in Maharashtra and has performed beyond its own expectations in Haryana as the party was like a headless chicken in both states with no cohesion, no strategy and not even a semblance of leadership. The voters have infused some life into a demoralised and rudderless party. The Congress should immediately seize the opportunity and set its house in order.

It is also interesting that voters have shown many defectors—including Alpesh Thakore, who contested the bye-polls from Gujarat after shifting loyalties from Congress to BJP—the door. In one stroke, the voter has put the arrogant in their place, strengthened the opposition and punished the betrayers. This gives hope that our democracy is alive and kicking.

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