Maharashtra, Haryana Assembly polls: Will Narendra Modi have the last laugh?

By Manisha Singh | Last Updated: Oct 17, 2014, 09:54 AM IST

Voting in high stakes Assembly elections is over in Maharashtra and Haryana and now the wait is for the results on October 19. However, to build up the excitement, exit polls on various TV channels were conducted on October 15, the day of the voting.

And if the exit polls are to be believed, and more importantly if they come true, then Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to have the last laugh on the D-day. While most of the polls have predicted that the BJP would emerge as the single largest party in both the states, some of them gave the saffron party a clear majority in Haryana. They also predicted a total rout for the Congress in both the states.

It has been said time and again that after leading his party to an unprecedented win in the 2014 General Elections in May, this was the first real test of the popularity of Modi. To a certain extent this is true.

After all, in the recent bypolls in states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the BJP had suffered setbacks at the hands of parties like the JD(U), RJD and the Samajwadi Party. It was said then by his political opponents that the so-called ‘Modi wave’ or the ‘Modi magic’ had started to wane and the ‘false promises’ he had made to the people had been exposed. Question marks were also being raised on BJP president Amit Shah, the man who was hailed by Modi as ‘man of the match’ of the Lok Sabha polls.

However, if the BJP manages to reach within a striking distance of forming the government in Maharashtra and is able to get the majority in Haryana, then it will be a vindication for the BJP which has been maintaining that Modi is the country’s most popular leader and its government at the Centre has been delivering on their promise.

It will also make the BJP believe that they did the right thing by junking its allies both in Maharashtra and Haryana. After all it’s not easy to break a 25-year-old alliance and that to in a state like Maharashtra where they have only once been in power but as a smaller partner of the Shiv Sena.

The decision, in all likelihood, had the approval of Modi who probably believes that if BJP wants to become stronger, then it will have to vie for majority on its own. To achieve the aim Modi campaigned extensively in both the states, exhorting voters to vote for a ‘stable government’ and promising to take their states on the path of progress if they did so. He addressed 27 rallies in Maharashtra - rare for a PM in an Assembly election.

Barbs were thrown at him by the Opposition which said that instead of running the country, Modi was busy campaigning. Others like Prithviraj Chavan said that there was no ‘Modi wave’ in Maharashtra and Bhupinder Singh Hooda said that Congress would come back to power.

Not to miss the Shiv Sena which, after the break-up could not hide its bitterness and instead of taking on the Congress and the NCP in Maharashtra, spent most of the time attacking the BJP and calling Modi names. They also equated the BJP campaign in Maharashtra to Afzal Khan’s invasion of India. Thus, the campaign in both the states virtually became Modi versus the rest.

In both the states the BJP did not project a CM candidate and did not really have a big face. But despite this if the people have voted for the BJP then, amongst other things, two factors may have played a major role. One – huge anti-incumbency against the ruling party. Two – belief in what Modi was promising them.

So, just like the victor which takes home the spoils of a battle that he has won, Modi will get most of the credit for BJP’s good showing in Maharashtra and Haryana, if it so happens.