20 November 2019 01:59 AM

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THE CITIZEN COMMENT | 24 OCTOBER, 2019

Elections Where the Janata Was Not Subsumed by Propaganda

Maharashtra, Haryana and 51 by-elections


The abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir was a major vote plank that the BJP was hopeful would bring the Jats in Haryana and the Marathas in Maharashtra on board these Assembly elections. Television news channels went along predicting a rout for all contending parties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president and Home Minister Amit Shah on a campaign blitz. The Congress stood poorly in the campaign field with Rahul Gandhi addressing some meetings in Maharashtra, and the Family unrepresented in Haryana after party president Sonia Gandhi cancelled the one meeting she was scheduled to address.

Backed by the media and a powerful propaganda machinery, the BJP seemed to be well in place to cross the 200 mark (as its leaders claimed) in Maharashtra, and sailing home in Haryana. The seemingly listless opposition in these states added to the ruling party’s confidence, as it tore into the opponents even going to the extent of announcing a Bharat Ratna for Veer Sarkar if elected to power in Maharashtra.

But the results of the two Assembly polls and the 51 by-elections across the country do register a downturn of sorts. While the BJP might succeed in forming the government in both states, including Haryana where it currently does not seem to have the numbers, the fact remains that it has not swept the two mainline states considered its stronghold. And somewhere joblessness, price rise and agrarian distress has dented the seemingly invincible mix of Kashmir, terrorism, national security, and right wing bombast.

In terms of numbers the loss might not be huge, but it has to be understood against the fact that Maharashtra and Haryana were two states where the BJP had virtually eaten not just the opposition but also its ally, the Shiv Sena. And where the ruling dispensation under its chief ministers Devendra Fadnavis and Manohar Lal Khattar had grown to command new heights, at least insofar as the propaganda claimed.

But this has not happened. BJP at the time of writing this has 37 seats in Haryana, with the Congress close behind with 29 seats. Khattar has moved almost immediately to stake claim to form the government, with the Jannayak Janata Party emerging as a king maker with leads in a crucial ten seats. The party under Om Prakash Chautala’s grandson, Dushyant Chautala has commanded sections of the Jat vote in Haryana and will take a decision of which party it will support at a meeting in Delhi tomorrow.

Dushyant Chautala is indeed a free bird. In that he has played the role of opposition to both the ruling BJP and the Congress in Haryana. And even to his own grandfather Om Prakash Chautala who expelled him and his father Ajay Singh Chautala from the Indian National Lok Dal in 2018. This was because their supporters raised slogans against Om Prakash Chautala’s other son Abhay Chautala. It had seemed then that the two, ostracised by their own patriarch, would be isolated but clearly this was not so. After forming the JPP named after their grandfather and founding father of the party Devi Lal, Dushyant Chautala moved from strength to strength.

Dushyant Chautala, picking up some of the Devi Lal legacy and moving away -- at least for now from the corruption associated with Om Prakash Chautala---did his schooling from Sanawar, and went on to California State University for further studies, completing his education with Masters of Law from the National law University. He became the youngest MP in the Lok Sabha in 2014, and after being thrown out of the INLD formed the Jannayak Janata Party that he has led to virtually replace the INLD as the Jat preference in Haryana.

The choice of who he will ally with thus remains his own, as it is unlikely that he will take any advice from his grandfather on this issue. That the BJP is looking again at horse trading to form the government, with the sitting BJP Chief Minister Khattar staking claim to form the government even though he does not have the numbers. But with the ten odd seats that Dushyant Chautala is expected to secure and the nine going to others there is probably room for adding to the numbers.

In Maharashtra the Nationalist Congress Party and its leader Sharad Pawar were projected as a spent force, along with the state Congress. But together they are leading in a 106 Assembly seats, as against 157 or so of the BJP. And this in itself is a major step forward for an alliance that has been rocky and at the same time listless insofar as its work on the ground is concerned. That it has been accepted now as a major Opposition by the Maharashtra electorate entering three digit figures is a major gain in itself, and a loss for the BJP.

The choice of who he will ally with thus remains his own, as it is unlikely that he will take any advice from his grandfather on this issue. That the BJP is looking again at horse trading to form the government, with the sitting BJP Chief Minister Khattar staking claim to form the government even though he does not have the numbers. But with the ten odd seats that Dushyant Chautala is expected to secure and the nine going to others there is probably room for adding to the numbers.

Interestingly the 51 bypolls across the country also do not bear great tidings for the BJP. In that in Punjab the party did not get even one of the two seats it contested, even though it had locked horns with its Akali Dal ally at one point, insisting it should get a better share. The Congress has gained one seat, securing three seats.

In Kerala the BJP did not win a single seat, despite the Sabarimala violence. The CPI(M) has won two seats, the Congress two seats and the IUML one seat. In Bihar BJP ally Janata Dal(U) seems to be overtaken by Nitish Kumar’s arch rival, the Rashtriya Janata Dal.

In Assam the BJP has retained three of the four seats it contested. The one has gone to the AIUDF that wrested this seat from the Congress. In the North East, the BJP has done well winning eight of the eleven seats in the region, with the Congress remaining its record of a poor performance.

In Uttar Pradesh too the BJP has not expanded its hold, in fact lose of the eight seats in held previously. It can take comfort in the fact that the Congress has not won a single seat of the 11 byelections held with the Samajwadi getting two, the BSP one, and the Apna Dal one.

Perhaps it might not be premature to presume that politics based on religiosity and polarisation has a limited time frame before it is replaced by the old roti, kapda aur makaan. And to see in these results the first signs of disillusionment.

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