Millennium Post

Eyeing a clean sweep

Backed by massive victory in Lok Sabha polls, BJP seems likely to win the upcoming polls in three states, especially with a disintegrated opposition

Eyeing a clean sweep

After a stunning victory in the recent Lok Sabha polls, BJP is targeting to retain the three poll-bound states — Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand — where elections are scheduled for later this year. The party chief Amit Shah has prepared an ambitious "Mission 75-plus" for the assembly polls in Haryana, "Mission 65-plus" for Jharkhand and "Mission 220-plus" plan for the election for the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly. These polls will be an acid test to see whether BJP continues its winning streak.

Why is BJP so confident? First of all, these elections are being held in the backdrop of Modi's stunning victory in May and the opposition in all the three states has not recovered from the blow they had received.

Secondly, the opposition is still not untied. Thirdly, they do not have tall leaders either at the national or state levels to match Modi. Fourthly, in 2014, BJP had won 47 out of 90 seats in Haryana, 42 out of 81 in alliance with the All Jharkhand Students Union in Jharkhand and the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance won 122 seats out of 288 in Maharashtra. Also, in the recent Lok Sabha polls, BJP and its allies nearly swept these states, winning 63 of their total 72 LS seats. Fifthly, the opposition lacks the money power, communicative skills, organisational skills or leadership of BJP.

The party has identified national integration and security as key poll issues. The revocation of Article 370 and Triple Talaaq as well as the reasonably successful Moon mission Chandrayan-2 will also be talking points. In contrast, the opposition would raise farmer distress, growing unemployment and the slump in the economy. Another positive for BJP is that sliding Congress is the main political adversary in Maharashtra and Haryana, while in Jharkhand it is the Congress-led coalition.

BJP hopes that a weak opposition, the continued nationalist upsurge as well as the time-tested BJP-Shiv Sena alliance will help the ruling party return to power. Fadnavis claims that the BJP-Sena alliance would win 229 of 288 seats. He is riding on the Bombay High Court's Maratha reservation order, desertions from the Congress-NCP, and division of opposition votes. Moreover, the party welcomes defectors from other parties with open arms. The erosion from Congress and NCP has been growing as senior leaders from both the parties have shifted to BJP.

The blow hot-blow cold relationship between BJP and Shiv Sena will be put to test again. BJP has a bigger challenge within the alliance as the Sena leader Aditya Thackeray is planning to contest the polls. He will be the first Thackeray to go for electoral politics. If Raj Thackeray's charisma in urban areas and Sharad Pawar's poll strategy and anti-incumbency could work, it might pose some challenge.

As for Haryana, BJP has found a winner in chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who has emerged as a leader in his own right. Party chief Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have already launched their poll campaign. The infighting in Congress's Haryana unit and the split in INLD have made the job easy for Khattar. BJP's main rivals are Congress, INLD and Haryana Janhit Congress. BJP is playing a non-Jat card to consolidate the upper caste, Banias and traders and the OBCs. Both INLD and Congress are vying for the Jat votes, which might be split.

Haryana is a classic case of how the Grand Old Party has frittered away its chances in a state where Congress has a presence, strong leaders as well as a social base. Congress has only to blame itself for its sad state in Haryana. Bitter infighting, lack of organisation, and a new caste dynamic have ensured that Congress poses little or no challenge to BJP.

Sonia Gandhi has appointed former Union Minister Kumari Selja as the new PCC chief and has also pacified the former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. But it is too little, too late.

In Jharkhand, though the Raghubar Das government has failed to impress in development work, chief minister Das is hopeful of another term. 'Ghar Ghar Raghubar' is likely to be the poll slogan. BJP won 12 out of 14 Lok Sabha seats in the state, but now it has to overcome the anti-incumbency against the chief minister Raghubar Das.

Congress is worried that BJP is growing in the state, particularly in the urban areas while only Muslims and Tribals remain with Congress. Congress also got a jolt when its state unit chief Ajay Kumar quit the party recently.

As of now, expectations are that BJP might carry all three states. Leadership crisis, lack of organisation and erosion in the opposition camp will make it easier for BJP and its allies to win and enable BJP hegemony to continue. For the demoralised Congress, even winning one state would boost the morale of its workers. Overall, BJP enjoys the advantage.

(The views expressed are strictly personal)

Kalyani Shankar

Kalyani Shankar

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