Buoyed by the recent Lok Sabha sweep, a confident Amit Shah has prepared an ambitious plan to bag over 75 seats in Haryana, 65 plus in Jharkhand and more than 220 in Maharashtra during the Assembly elections
After a stunning victory in the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is determined to retain the three poll-bound States —Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand — where Assembly elections are scheduled to be held later this year.
The BJP chief Amit Shah has prepared an ambitious plan to bag over 75 seats or Mission 75-plus for the polls in Haryana, Mission 65-plus for Jharkhand and Mission 220-plus for the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly.
These elections will be an acid test to see whether the BJP will be able to continue its winning streak. Why is the BJP so confident? First, these polls are being held in the backdrop of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stunning victory in May and the fact that the Opposition in all the three States has not recovered from the blow at the hustings.
Second, the Opposition is still not united.Third, they do not have tall leaders either at the national or State level to match Modi’s charisma. Fourth, in 2014, the BJP had won 47 out of 90 seats in Haryana, 42 out of 81 in alliance, with the All Jharkhand Students Union in the State and 122 seats out of 288 in Maharashtra in alliance with the Shiv Sena.
Also, in the recent Lok Sabha polls, the BJP and its allies nearly swept these States, winning 63 of their total 72 Lok Sabha seats.
The saffron party has identified national integration and security as key election issues while the abrogation of Article 370 and triple talaq will also be talking-points. The Opposition on the other hand, would raise farmer distress, growing unemployment and the slump in the economy, which are key issues, but it lacks the money power, communication skills, organisational set-up or the leadership of the BJP.
Another positive for the BJP is that a decimated Congress is its main political adversary in Maharashtra and Haryana while in Jharkhand it is the Congress-led coalition.
The BJP hopes that a weak Opposition, the nationalist upsurge as well as the time-tested BJP-Shiv Sena alliance will help the ruling party return to power in Maharashtra. A confident Devendra Fadnavis claims that the BJP-Sena alliance would win 229 of 288 seats in Maharashtra.
The Chief Minister is riding on the Bombay High Court’s Maratha reservation order, desertions from the Congress- Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and division of Opposition votes.
Moreover, the BJP welcomes defectors from other parties with open arms and the erosion in the Congress and the NCP has been growing as senior leaders from both organisations have shifted to the saffron party.
The blow hot, blow cold relationship between the BJP and the Shiv Sena will be put to test again. The BJP has a bigger challenge within the alliance as the progressive 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, Sharad Pawar’s poll strategy and anti-incumbency could work, it might pose some challenge to the party.
As for Haryana, the BJP has found a winner in Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who has emerged as a leader in his own right. While Shah and Modi have already launched their poll campaign, the infighting in the Congress’ Haryana unit and the split in the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), have made the job easy for Khattar.
The BJP’s main rivals in the State are the Congress, the INLD and the Haryana Janhit Congress. The party is playing a non-Jat card to consolidate the upper caste, banias and the Other Backward Classes. Both the INLD and the Congress are vying for 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 it has a presence, strong leaders as well as a social base.
The Congress only has itself to blame for its sad state in Haryana. Bitter infighting, lack of organisation and a new caste dynamic has ensured that the Congress poses little or no challenge to the BJP.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has appointed former Union Minister Kumari Selja as the new Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief and has also pacified former Chief Minister BS 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 getting another term. “Ghar, ghar Raghubar” is likely to be the poll slogan this time. Though the BJP won 12 out of 14 Lok Sabha seats in the State in the last election, but now it has to overcome the anti- incumbency factor against Raghubar Das.
The Congress is worried that the BJP is growing in the State, particularly in the urban areas, while only Muslims and the tribals remain with the grand old party. The Congress also got a jolt when its State unit chief Ajoy Kumar quit the party recently.
As of now, expectations are that the BJP might sweep all the three States. The leadership crisis, lack of organisation and erosion in the Congress will make it easier for the BJP and its allies to win and allow the BJP hegemony to continue. On the other hand, for a totally demoralised Congress, winning even one State would boost the morale of its workers. Overall, it is advantage BJP.
(The writer is a senior journalist)