Millennium Post

Poll shift or just status quo?

The poll season is picking up with four politically important states going to elections in the next couple of months. These are the first major elections, since the 2014 Lok Sabha polls where the BJP-led NDA was voted to power with a thumping majority.  It is important for the BJP to maintain its winning streak. But the recent by-election results in different states including Bihar, Uttarakhand. UP, Rajasthan, Bihar and Gujarat have come as a jolt for the party.  It was routed in U.P and Rajasthan and ceded ground in Bihar and Modi’ s home state Gujarat. The only consolation for the party was opening its account in the West Bengal Assembly.

The results raise a question why the BJP is on back foot so soon.  While the party claimed that it was the local issues, which mattered in the bye-elections, there are some who believe that the party has come to depend on the Modi magic and has become complacent ad also arrogant.

Of the four states, which are gong to polls, Maharashtra is most crucial for the BJP.  The BJP-Shiv Sena combine is poised to wrest power from ruling Congress-NCP. Facing dissidence and lack of a charismatic leader, the Congress is facing its worst ever anti incumbency. There is a fatigue factor emerging in Maharashtra after a 15-year Congress-NCP rule. Poll surveys show good prospects for the Sena-BJP combine. Riding the Modi wave, the Sena-BJP combine won 42 of the 48 seats in the state, its biggest ever victory in Maharashtra. BJP has emerged as number one party in the state with 27 per cent vote share.  There are 19 Assembly segments in which the BJP never won and 100 constituencies where the party won at least once.

The squabble between the alliance partners is for the chief minister’s post and seat sharing. While the BJP does not have any charismatic leader, the Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has already thrown his hat in the ring. The BJP realizes that with MNS chief Raj Thackeray having cut into a big chunk of votes, it has to depend on Uddhav.  After the set back in the by-elections, the BJP is weaker on the seat sharing bargain. The combine cannot win if there is no harmony between the parties.

Congress is bidding for power for the third time in Haryana.  The chief minister Hooda is facing not only anti- incumbency but also dissidence and internal sabotage within the Congress. The BJP has an advantage as the party   had emerged as number one party in the state with 34 per cent vote share winning 7 of 10 Lok Sabha seats. BJP was leading in 52 of 90 Assembly constituencies while the Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), which won two Lok Sabha seats was leading in 16, ruling Congress, which won only one seat of Rohtak leads in 15 Assembly constituencies. HJC, in alliance with the BJP, failed even to open its account but had lead in 7 Assembly seats. The BJP is keeping a window for an alliance with the INLD.
The flip side is that the BJP does not have any credible chief ministerial candidate and is totally depending on the Modi magic. The party cannot gain anything substantial by counting on the leaders
like Rao Inderjit Singh or Chaudhary Birendra Singh, who till recently were in the Congress.

Jharkhand is yet another state where the BJP has high stakes. The JMM – Congress is ruling the state at present but the BJP won 12 of the 14 seats in the Lok Sabha polls, a big improvement surging forward with a 40 per cent vote share. The Congress did not get a single seat while the JMM bagged two. The BJP has kept an open door policy to encourage leaders from other parties to join before the polls.

The BJP is very keen to capture Jammu and Kashmir and has been working for it for some time. Prime Minister has made three trips already.  The Central government has also announced relief for the Kashmiri Pandits and a Rs. 1,000 crore relief for the flood affected areas. The party is on a ‘mission 44 ‘ to capture the state.  The BJP won three of the six seats and got 32 per cent vote sharing emerging as number one while the NC-Congress combine was wiped out. The Congress and the NC have parted ways. The PDP got the other three seats and has chances of improving.

What does all this see- saw effect mean for the two major parties – the Congress and the BJP?  While the BJP victory would further strengthen the party, the Congress is looking for some hold to remain credible at the national level after its worst ever defeat.  The bye- election results are indeed a shot in the arm for the party.  But there is much more to do if wants to win even one of the four states.

The BJP has to arrest the slide if it means business. For this it needs to introspect why it is losing within 100 days of the NDA rule. Was it because its religious mobilisation did not work?  Was it because of wrong candidates? Was it because of complacency? What has happened to the Amit Shah strategy?  What happened in UP and Bihar where the party won hands down 100 days ago? It has to find answers for these if it has to sustain the tempo. IPA
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