Modi wave only in Haryana

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It's a half-way house for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The party's hopes of forming governments on its own in both Maharashtra and Haryana have come true only in the northern state where its remarkable performance in the parliamentary polls has been replicated in the assembly elections.

In Maharashtra, however, the BJP is unlikely to be satisfied with only the status of a No. 1 party since it exposes it to the possibilities of Machiavellian compromises with either estranged friends or even outright foes.

The reason why the BJP finds itself in such a predicament is clear enough. For a start, its excellent showing in the Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra when it won in 23 of the 48 parliamentary constituencies made it believe that it was time to dump its ally of 25 years, the Shiv Sena, and strike out on its own.

Since the BJP had been smarting under the exigency of having to play second fiddle to a regional partner with a reputation for rowdiness all this while, it could hardly be expected to forsake the opportunity provided by its stellar showing in the Lok Sabha elections.

However, the mistake which it made in its hubris is to overlook the fact that the Shiv Sena didn't fare too badly in the parliamentary polls since it won 18 seats, coming second to the BJP.

The BJP is now having to pay a price for this error of judgment since its earlier belief about the Narendra Modi magic sweeping Maharashtra has been nullified.

There doesn't appear to be any alternative left for the BJP, therefore, but to renew its ties with the Shiv Sena notwithstanding the charge of a backstabber which the latter had levelled against the BJP.

The present reality check is likely, however, to persuade both parties to come down from their high horses and shake hands again. But, they will have to wear a shamefaced look all the same if only because their opponents will not let them forget the bitterness of their parting.

For the Shiv Sena, it is a victory of sorts. First, the party has proved that it is the real inheritor of Balasaheb Thackeray's legacy, relegating the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) to the position of a pretender.

Secondly, the outcome has substantiated the Shiv Sena's argument that there was something unreal about the much-hyped Modi wave during the campaign for the parliamentary polls, for the Gujarat strongman had not able to breach the regional fortresses of the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, the Biju Janata Dal in Odisha and the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal.

By that token, the Shiv Sena leader, Uddhav Thackeray, has been claiming that an influential regional party can negate the Modi wave, as the now virtually defunct Aam Admi Party did in Delhi in the winter of 2013-14.

By coming in the way of the BJP acquiring a majority on its own in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena has partly proved its case. It is now in a position to make the BJP realize that Modi's development mantra is not strong enough to cut the regional parties to size although the promise of economic growth can significantly erode their bases of influence.

It is in Haryana, however, where the BJP is now the master of all it surveys. More than in Maharashtra, where the party has always had a notable presence, even if in the Shiv Sena's company, the BJP was a virtual nonentity in Haryana where it won a mere two and four seats in the 2005 and 2009 assembly elections.

Yet, it came out of the blue to win seven of the 10 parliamentary seats last May, sweeping aside the Congress, which won only one and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), which won two.

The erroneous nature of the explanation that this excellent showing was only the result of the high level of popular disenchantment with the Congress has been proved by the BJP's carrying on from where it left off five months ago to secure a majority on its own in Haryana.

In the process, it has reduced the Congress to the third position, an outcome which most observers will ascribe to the Bhupinder Singh Hooda government's suspected bounties for Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law, Robert Vadra, where his land deals are concerned.

The INLD has come second, but its tally has dropped below the 31 it secured in 2009. Even then, the Jat-dominated party has shown that the incarceration of former chief minister Om Prakash Chautala has affected it only marginally.

The BJP, however, can derive considerable satisfaction from having entered a state where it was virtually non-existent till last May, securing only nine or 10 per cent of the votes. In May, however, the percentage surged to 34.

It's, therefore, a mixed bag for BJP. The party is now in charge of India's financial capital at a time when its pro-market policies are giving the country a distinctly capitalist orientation as never before. At the same time, it must be somewhat dissatisfied that it is not in full control.

In Haryana, however, the BJP has conquered new territory.

(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at amulyaganguli@gmail.com)

IANS

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