Two states. Too much at stake
Buoyed by its performance in the Lok Sabha election, coupled with a desire to spread its wings both north and south of the Vindhyas, the BJP has chosen to go it alone in the Assembly elections to be held in Maharashtra and Haryana on 15 October. Its 25-year-old alliance with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra stands broken. So does the tie-up between the Congress and the NCP. Consequently, the BJP is locked in a multi-cornered contest with the Congress, Shiv Sena, NCP and MNS in Maharashtra and the INLD and smaller parties in Haryana. Together with his protégé and BJP president Amit Shah, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has run a high-risk campaign in both states and put his prestige at stake. If he succeeds, it will be yet another feather in Modi’s cap. Otherwise, the knives will be out for him. The question on everyone’s lips and minds is: will Modi’s magic work this time, too? Can Uddhav Thackeray and Sharad Pawar overcome the odds? How will the results of the Maharashtra and Haryana Assembly polls impact politics at the national level? Pradyot Lal and Thufail PT etch the big picture.
Despite going solo in Maharashtra, the BJP will have no option but to patch up with the Shiv Sena come counting day, says Pradyot Lal
There is an intriguing touch to the ongoing political race in Maharashtra: why has the BJP become deliberately ambivalent and even reticent to finish off what in normal course appeared to be an easy game?
With saffron horses stopping midway in a race that they could have won with ease, matka (betting) operators in the maximum city have become unusually circumspect this time round. They would rather keep their money safe for the moment and react only if the BJP enlarges its footprint in Maharashtra more significantly than it has ever done in the past. In numerical terms, the closer the BJP gets to 115-120 seats in the 288-member House will the cursors of the dominant political mood indicate their minds.
The mood at Mumbai’s Turf Club is a reflection of the general reticence prevailing in most parts of a state, which usually gets volatile and excited around election time.
The political bourses are unusually silent this time, and the reason for voter somnolence can perhaps be traced to certain long-term projections, that the BJP has in mind rather than looking for the easy option of getting power anyhow.
“The BJP would much rather become a truly pan-Indian party like the Congress by gradually enlarging its national footprint in vital states. Any touch of anxiety to cash in indiscriminately on its Modi card will perhaps boomerang in the long term,” is how a veteran commentator perceives the BJP’s deliberate ambivalence.
The BJP, the INLD and the Congress are all playing for big stakes in the Haryana Assembly polls. Thufail PT reports
On 4 October, BJP workers spent a sleepless night at the party’s election office in Haryana’s Karnal city. Just back from a night procession, they had chosen to stay over at the party office. The next morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was going to launch his campaign for the upcoming Assembly election in the state. The party workers did not wish to miss out on the opportunity to welcome him.
“Unlike other political leaders, Modi is very particular about punctuality. So, we decided it was better to stay back in the party office and go to venue of the rally straight from here,” said a party worker even as one of Modi’s famous 3D speeches, heard across the country during the Lok Sabha poll campaign, was being played on an lcd screen just outside the office premises. There were no posters or banners featuring the local BJP candidate in the procession that was carried out earlier; it was all about Modi.
This wasn’t surprising as it was mainly by riding the Modi wave that the BJP — until then a fringe force in the state — had bagged seven of the eight seats it had contested in the General Election earlier this year.
However, on the morning of 5 October, as the prime minister arrived at the HUDA ground to address the masses, the million-dollar question on everyone’s mind was whether the “Modi magic” would work once again in Haryana. Following the BJP’s poor performance in the recent bypolls in several states, the party has been under tremendous pressure to disprove its rivals’ prognosis that the Modi wave is over. So, the party has a lot at stake in the 15 October Assembly polls in both Haryana and Maharashtra.
Haryana is especially crucial for the party due to its geographical and political proximity to the national capital and also because Modi has projected the state as his “second home”.