No real contest likely in Maharashtra, Haryana
Going by the current mood of the people and the complete disarray in which we find the Opposition, the forthcoming Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana seem to be a ritual which takes place after every five years. The ruling BJP-Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and the ruling BJP in Haryana are all set to win a second term without any ifs and buts.
Given the national mood in favour of the BJP, more so in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it seems the BJP has booked a return ticket in both these Assemblies well in advance. The curiosity element in these Assembly elections is limited only to the extent the ruling party/coalition would be able to improve upon its tally of seats compared to its previous performance in 2014, or if there could be some decline in the support base of the ruling party due to some anti-incumbency against the government during the last five years. If the Opposition is able to make some dent in the support base of the ruling BJP, and increase its tally by a few seats, it should be seen as an achievement for the Opposition at this moment.
Reports from various sources suggest the performance of the Haryana government has been just average or even below average, but two things would work in favour of the ruling BJP. First, the national mood, and more so in the Hindi heartland, is in favour of the BJP, and a completely divided Opposition in the state. With the kind of support base the BJP has enjoyed in the previous Assembly and in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, one should expect a very comfortable victory for the BJP in the 2019 Assembly elections. The BJP polled 34.7 per cent and 33.2 per cent votes during the 2014 Lok Sabha and 2014 Assembly elections respectively, and it managed to improve its voteshare to 58 per cent during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. If the BJP’s victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections is seen in terms of the Assembly elections, the BJP led in 79 Assembly seats while the Congress, which was in power in the state for 10 years, would have won only 10 seats with the lone seat going to the JJP.
While it is true that the BJP will not be able to retain its 58 per cent votes polled in 2019, its voteshare would certainly decline, but the divided Opposition would by default help the BJP establish a decisive lead over all its political rivals in the state. Even though ground reports suggest the numerically dominant Jats are not very happy with the BJP as they felt left out of the power corridors in the state for the first time ever since the BJP elected a non-Jat as chief minister, the BJP would try to mobilise voters from non-Jat communities with a special eye on dalits, who constitute 28 per cent of total voters. It is also unrealistic to assume that even if Jats are unhappy they are not going to turn their back to the BJP en bloc. Given that there is a very weak Opposition, not even good enough to put up a fight against the BJP, many Jats would end up voting for the BJP even though they remain unhappy.
While the BJP and the Shiv Sena have not sealed an alliance till now, Maharashtra should witness a direct contest between the BJP-Shiv Sena and the Congress-NCP alliances. Though the Congress and the NCP have left 38 seats for prospective alliance partners, mainly Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Agadi (VBA), given the current situation the VBA is likely to contest the forthcoming elections alone after not being happy with this offer and their talks having failed for an alliance with the AIMIM. The presence of the VBA and the AIMIM would mean a symbolic multi-cornered contest, but the contest would essentially be only between the BJP-Shiv Sena on one side and the Congress-NCP on the other hand. The question is will there be any contest even between the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance and the Congress-NCP alliance?
Given the recent electoral verdict and the current mood of the voters in the state, the Congress-NCP alliance may find it extremely difficult to be able to put up any contest against the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance. The BJP has emerged stronger over the years and in alliance with the Shiv Sena, it is almost an invincible political force at this moment. Having contested the 2014 Lok Sabha polls together, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance polled 47.9 per cent votes, which increased further to 50.9 per cent during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. If the 2019 Lok Sabha results are converted into Assembly contests, this alliance would have won 225 of the 288 Assembly seats (BJP: 121, Shiv Sena: 104) while the Congress-NCP alliance would have won only 45 Assembly seats (Congress: 22, NCP: 23). Even when there was no alliance and all political parties contested the 2014 Assembly elections separately against each other, the BJP remained the frontrunner, having won 122 Assembly seats with 27.8 per cent votes, with the Shiv Sena being number two, winning 63 seats with 19.3 per cent votes The Congress and the NCP won 42 and 41 seats respectively with 17.9 per cent and 17.2 per cent votes respectively. The combined voteshare of the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance even in the 2014 Assembly elections remained at 47.1 per cent, while the Congress-NCP alliance’s combined voteshare remained far less, at 35.2 per cent.
What goes to the advantage of the BJP in the recent round of Assembly elections is the current mood clearly in favour of the BJP, largely due to the image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the completely divided Opposition in both the states, the largest Opposition and once the ruling party/coalition in both these states being completely shattered, and the lack of a credible face in any of the parties opposing the BJP in these two states. With or without an alliance, the BJP is in a very strong position in both Haryana and Maharashtra, and is all set for a second term in government in both states.