The unstoppable BJP juggernaut continues to roll across the length and breadth of India with Narendra Modi as the flag bearer and Amit Shah as his prime charioteer and strategist.
Election after election, the duo has come together to script one victory after another. Whether it is general elections, when the BJP wave swept across areas where it was hitherto a non-entity, or the assembly elections now, Modi and his team of loyals have picked one state after another as trophies.
The latest regions to have voted with their feet against the Congress (or its ally Nationalist Congress Party - NCP) are Haryana and Maharashtra. In Jat-land, the win is clearer and thus sweeter, but also more vindicating because it is for the first time since 1966 when the state was carved out that the BJP contested on all seats and emerged as the single largest party, leave alone one with a simple majority.
Statistics say it all, from its tally of a paltry 4 in 2009 to over the halfway mark in the 90-seat assembly, the verdict in Haryana is historic.
Depending on the way you look at it, the reasons for such a mandate could be numerous or one alone. Factors could include anti-incumbency, desire for change, internal dissent in the Congress, corruption charges especially related with land deals or the writ of the khap panchayats. The single major reason, of course, seems to undoubtedly be the Modi wave, which has overcome major caste and clan affiliations that have long governed voting patterns in the state that has mostly returned Congress or the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) to power.
The disenchantment with the old way of politics seems clear as prominent figures like Dushyant Chautala and Savitri Jindal have been forced to bite dust. And also the fact that people have not bought into the emotional appeal of the incarcerated leader Om Prakash Chautala, who mustered enough strength to address rallies the moment he stepped out on bail purportedly on health grounds.
Could appeals of dera (establishments of self-styled spiritual leaders) heads like Sachha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh of Sirsa have influenced decisions of voters? Yes, indeed. But these have been auxiliary helps, for even populist measures taken by Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda – reservation for Jats, more pension for war widows, handsome monetary prizes for sportspersons, separation of Haryana Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee from Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee, really failed to ebb the downslide of the Congress.
At the end, people were looking for change and seem to have clearly backed Modi’s campaign, which centred around development, pro-active governance and greater opportunities for the youth.
The same line of appeal seems to have found resonance in Maharashtra where the angst of the people against the Congress-NCP government in power was even greater. The plethora of scams including Adarsh Housing scam, irrigation scam and allegations linking the Pawar family to the Lavasa project had embittered the people. Worse was the unbridled spate of farmer suicides caused due to crop failure and inability to pay back loans.
BJP would be happy that it has for the first time emerged as the single largest party in Maharashtra, though it was always a prominent player in the state, unlike in Haryana. Yet, things could have been even rosier - had the BJP and Shiv Sena not indulged in self-destructive politics of breaking their alliance, the two would have swept the state. But personal egos played a part – Modi’s alleged dislike of the Thackeray clan and the Shiv Sena’s desire to be seen as the senior partner disregarding the trend seen in general election hurt both the parties.
The name calling by Uddhav, when the alliance had fallen apart and the gloves were off, only made matters worse and will make things more difficult now as the two sides are once again forced to patch up. Nevertheless, the blitzkrieg election campaign of Modi – he addressed 24 rallies in the state – did pay off and though Shiv Sena has won substantive seats, voters seem much less impressed by the politics of rhetoric than the constructive language of growth and development.
The war between the long-time allies BJP and Shiv Sena only helped the Congress and the NCP, both parties would have been decimated if the saffron parties had stayed together. This would probably be for the first time since 1999 when Sharad Pawar would be out of government from both Centre and state and that’s perhaps the reason why the NCP has already declared its outside support to the BJP.
In terms of performance, BJP has pulled off a few surprises and done better than expected in Marathwada, which is traditionally a Congress/NCP stronghold. The support for the saffron party here is probably due to the popularity of late leader Gopinath Munde and the emergence of his daughter Pankaja, who is now the undisputed leader in Beed. Apparently the backward caste of the family has helped and even the community’s spiritual leader had announced his open support for Pankaja.
The good showing of the BJP in urban areas like Mumbai and Thane also indicates the appeal the party holds for the urban voters, and especially the youth. Also, North Indian and other non-Marathi residents in the urban areas of Maharashtra seem to have backed the BJP, as opposed to the exclusionist tactics adopted by the Shiv Sena. In this regard, bad news only got worse for Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, which has been shrinking in size and impact.
Surprisingly in Vidarbha, the Congress and the NCP still seem to hold ground among rural voters despite the pathetic conditions of farmers, and BJP has yet to make a more forceful dent in this region though state chief Devendra Fadnavis and Nitin Gadkari hail from here.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) deserves a footnote mention – it is noteworthy that it has contested in Maharashtra for the first time and has already opened its account.
All in all though, the credit for the wins in both Haryana and Maharashtra goes to Narendra Modi, who seems to have learnt a lesson from the Gandhi family of yesteryears; that an aura of a name can be a magnet that attracts electorate, cutting across classes, communities and castes.
He has undertaken the mission to deliver a Congress Mukta Bharat and is already painting the town red with ‘V’ symbols. It is time that Sonia Gandhi and Rahul wake up and read the writings on the wall.