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Divided they fall

October 20, 2014

The recent Maharashtra and Haryana assembly elections have been a bonanza for the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party). They have got an absolute majority on their own in Haryana and done remarkably well in Maharashtra with 123 seats in a house of 288. BJP’s gamble to go it alone in both Haryana and Maharashtra seems to have paid off, or has it? While in Haryana with a clear majority of 47 seats the BJP is set to form the government in Maharashtra the story is slightly different.

Prior to the elections, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance broke and then the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress Party alliance also came to an end. In the former, BJP led by their party president Amit Shah gambled that they would be able to clear the half way mark on their own, in the latter, it appears that Sharad Pawar and others top leaders of the NCP reckoned that they would be dragged down if they aligned with the Congress especially after the drubbing the Congress received in the Lok Sabha elections. In Maharashtra at least, both the BJP and the NCP got it all wrong. NCP has its stronghold in the Vidarbha region and Congress too has roots in the rural hinterland of Maharashtra from the times of YB Chavan.

It is true that the presence of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi did not stir up the masses. Their rallies were more of a formality than any real substance! The man who single-handedly carried the Congress to a tally of 43 seats – 2 more than the NCP was the Congress Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. The man worked tirelessly and his efforts paid off. Is the NCP ruing the fact that they broke the alliance with the Congress? Had it not been for Prithviraj Chavan the Congress would have been somewhere in the 20’sHad the Congress-NCP alliance remained intact it could well be that BJP and Sena would not be anywhere near the kind of results that have come about.NCP and Congress together are a formidable force in Maharashtra and they have a history of building cooperatives, educational institutions and other infrastructure that the common man is still reaping the benefits from and therefore they have a committed voter base. Conversely, BJP and Sena have done little for the people of Maharashtra and Sena is basically a Mumbai based outfit. Had the Congress and the NCP fought together they could well be near the halfway mark though their tenure was more of misrule rather than any real governance.

The flip side to the argument is that the BJP and the Sena missed a trick when they failed to retain the alliance. Had the BJP and the Sena fought together they could have crossed the 210-220mark and marginalized both the NCP and the Congress to the periphery. Today the situation is that BJP has won 123 seats and the Sena has won 63 seats and both are wondering as to what to do next – waiting for the other to make a move. This is a major dampener for both the rightist outfits. For the BJP this is a positive in that they have shown their growing clout in Maharashtra politics.

Narendra Modi worked tirelessly and had more than 30 rallies. Critics went to town running him down claiming that the PM should be in office rather than out canvassing for the party. Clearly they have not gotten out of the Manmohan Singh era when the PM would be a bureaucrat pushing files. Then they wondered why the PM is not a political person, now when we have a political leader as the PM they say why he is out talking to the people. This is absurd and this really is criticism for the sake of criticism.

It appears that the BJP supreme leader PM Narendra Modi has a distinct dislike for Sena chief Udhav Thackrey. The man cannot stand Mr. Thackrey. Modi and Amit Shah it appears calculated that BJP would be very near the majority and the Maharashtra Navnirmaan Sena would be in double figures and they would form the government together, decimating Shiv Sena and propping up MNS as its counter. While their calculations about the BJP were almost right the MNS failed to deliver and won only one seat. Now the BJP has the option of either aligning with Udhav’s Shiv Sena or take outside support of the much maligned and overtly corrupt NCP who offered unconditional support at the very outset. While Modi would have no hesitation in taking support from the NCP – he and Sharad Pawar share personal rapport, the image of the NCP and Ajit Pawar is such that the BJP will look silly if they did so. It would be so much more of the same.

Shiv Sena is demanding that Udhav Thackrey be made the CM. That is unpalatable for the BJP. The BJP CM candidate Devendra Phadnavis is a light weight as compared to Udhav Thackrey BJP failed to cross the half way mark also because they did not have a declared CM candidate to begin with and when they did it was too late and the lad was not a known figure. Modi and his charm could do only so much and no more, which is no mean feat anyway.

The BJP has little choice but to swallow their pride and go back to Shiv Sena. Because there is another possible scenario where Shiv Sena takes the support of both the NCP and the Congress and forms the government. If the BJP prevaricates and wastes time they may have to face a situation where while they are the single largest party – they might still be sitting in the opposition. Muscle flexing by the BJP should be limited taking into the view that in politics anything is possible and the innate gravity of power leads to strange bedfellows. There cannot be a political vacuum.

Lastly, Raj Thackrey and his Maharashtra Navnirman Sena must be ruing the fact that they failed to cobble an alliance with the Shiv Sena when Udhav and his men came calling after the BJP-Sena alliance broke up. Both MNS and the Shiv Sena target the Marathi Manoos. Their target audience is the same. MNS did cut into Sena’s votes reducing their numbers. And that was their only achievement. They won only 1seat and their very existence is under a cloud. Had Sena and MNS fought together they could have possibly crossed the 100 seat mark. For Udhav and his Shiv Sena the one bright spot is the utter failure of the MNS to make a mark in these elections. MNS could well be writing their own political obituary. That is no solace for those who wanted Udhav as the CM. The division between the cousins is a political opportunity lost. Remarkably the Majlis-e Ittihad ul Musalmeen or the MIM has won three seats and is a threat to those parties who overtly and covertly depend on Muslim votes for their political survival.

It was undiluted ambition that drove the parties apart. And now political compulsions and the need to form a government will again bring some of them together. It is amazing how the electorate teach the political parties and leaders lessons time and time again and how they fail to learn from their experiences. The Rightists are at the top for now. They will be watched keenly by the people as to whether they deliver.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 20, 2014 11:19 pm

    Good one. While on Maharashtra elections, my post – “The Maha Gam(e)ble!!! – Pls read and feel free to leave your views. Thanks.

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