Now that the assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana are over and BJP just about managed to return to power . There are some takeaways that all the key players in the poll arithmetic need to ponder ahead.
Yes, BJP did comeback to power in both the states but have had to deal with reverses as well. The big sweep as predicted did not come . But despite the several touchy common man issues the people still found the BJP more favourable than the others . This is a major development.
Maharashtra had been besieged with host of issues – farmers distress , suicides, drought, Maratha agitation , Mumbai deluge during monsoon and the PMC bank scam yet the Fadnavis government passed the test. It’s ally Shiv Sena almost played the role of an opposition right through the tenure only to team- up before polls to say that all is well.
In Haryana, BJP despite the wrath of the Jats managed to romp home under Manohar Lal Khattar. . And to the surprise of many an unknown JJP party of Dushyant Chautala suddenly emerged as the kingmaker . And by sealing a deal with the BJP to form a coalition government , Dushyant suddenly has become a major player in Haryana politics.
One of the biggest flaws in the BJP campaign was the repeated mentioning of Article 370 . This really did not cut ice with the voters in Maharashtra. It left many wondering , how on earth does Article 370 which was related to Jammu And Kashmir matter to common man in Mumbai? It was perhaps a wrong narrative . BJP did not get to target Rahul Gandhi much but chose to lash out at Sharad Pawar. This tactic back- fired. The people found it unacceptable that Pawar is an anti-national . Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s jibe at Pawar did not please people much.
Moreover, the party has to find a different narrative ahead. It cannot go on blaming Jawaharlal Nehru or the UPA for the matter each time a crisis erupts. They must know that they are in power for the last five years. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s statement that public sector banks were worst under Dr Manmohan Singh and Raghuram Rajan is laughable. Rajan in- fact has worked under both Dr Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His term was from September 2013 through September 2016. So how come his tenure under Dr Manmohan Singh was worst while under Modi it was fine ? quite baffling indeed .
His party saw several defections , ED heat on him and Dawood link on his right hand man Praful Patel, yet Sharad Pawar showed all why is he called the Maratha stalwart. The wily Pawar campaigned aggressively and drove home the local issues to the electorate handsomely . He addressed 66 rallies at an age of 79 and ensured that his party finished creditable third in polls . It was a brilliant effort. A seasoned politician Pawar has proved the political pundits wrong by proving that age , experience does matter in Indian politics . Clearly Pawar play is certainly not over as yet.
One of the biggest set- backs of the elections in two states is the Congress party. It virtually had no leader to steer their campaign. Bhupinder Singh Hooda was handed in the command very late. In Maharashtra in- fighting cost them dearly . The Sanjay Nirupam vs Milind Deora slugfest showed the party in poor light. Sonia Gandhi as interim president could not rein in. She did not campaign in Haryana nor in Maharashtra.
Rahul Gandhi’s body language did not exude confidence. He stuck to his old Rafale argument. A stance that was rejected fair and square by the voters in the Lok Sabha polls of 2019. Rahul looked disinterested and even after the poll results of the two states, there was not a single tweet on it . Whereas he had had been quick to tweet on Jammu and Kashmir, economic slowdown, Howdy Modi event among others.
The Congress candidates were left to battle out themselves in their constituencies without any help from the central leadership. And the result is there to see. The party though may be saying that the verdict is moral defeat for the BJP, it itself however instead of a jibe against the BJP should reflect or for the matter introspect why it finished fourth in Maharashtra . Nothing can be more embarrassing than finishing behind Sharad Pawar’s party NCP.
In Maharashtra , the BJP had Devendra fadnavis, Sena had Uddhav Thackeray ( son Aditya making debut with a win) , NCP had Sharad Pawar , but Congress had none. This absence hurt them badly. Sooner they settle this leadership issue between young and old will be better. Otherwise the party is simply staring at an existential crisis. It must ponder why despite many flaws in the BJP, people are still reposing faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP?
So all in all , the verdict has shown that parties cannot take support for granted and they need a fresh approach to woo the voters to stay in the race or face irrelevance .