MUMBAI / CHANDIGARH – The BJP-Shiv Sena coalition was Thursday on course to retain power albeit with a reduced majority in Maharashtra where the opposition Congress-NCP alliance put up a good show while BJP-ruled Haryana appeared headed for a hung assembly and JJP chief Dushyant Chautala set to become the kingmaker.
In the first Assembly elections after the BJP’s triumph in the Lok Sabha polls in May, the saffron party’s electoral juggernaut met with some resistance in Maharashtra and Haryana with a resurgent Congress performing creditably in the northern state. The Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) was set to emerge as the single largest party in Haryana followed by the Congress.
The Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party(NCP) not only improved its performance in Maharashtra but fared even better than senior partner Congress by contesting lesser number of seats.
In Haryana, the Congress, which failed to bag even one seat in the Lok Sabha polls, won or was ahead in 31 of the 90 seats at stake compared to its previous tally of 15. The BJP, which had 47 seats in the outgoing 90-member house, won or was ahead in 40 seats. The half-way mark is 46.
All eyes were on the fledgling Jannayak Janta Party(JJP) which was floated last year by Dushyant Chautala, a former MP from Hisar, after a vertical split in the once powerful INLD following a family feud in the Chautala clan.
Dushyant remained non-committal on whether his party would support the BJP or the Congress in forming a government in the event of a hung assembly. The JJP won 9 seats and was leading in one.
As Haryana headed for a hung assembly as per the latest trends, the BJP high command is understood to have summoned Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar to Delhi.The BJP had set a target of winning 75 seats.
As per the results and trends available in Maharashtra, the BJP’s tally in the 288-member Assembly was 99 while it was 57 for the Sena. In the 2014 polls, the BJP and the Sena won 122 and 63 seats respectively. They had then contested separately. The Sena joined the Fadnavis-led government over a month after it was formed.
NCP won or was ahead in 55 while the Congress’ tally was 44. The NCP and the Congress bagged 41 and 42 seats in the outgoing house.
With trends in Maharashtra showing the BJP falling short of the halfway-mark on its own, its ally and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said it was time to implement “fifty-fifty” formula for power-sharing, decided on earlier.
“Maharashtra mandate is an eye-opener for many,” Thackeray told reporters in Mumbai.
“We had agreed to contest fewer seats (than the BJP), but I cannot accommodate the BJP every time. I should allow my party to grow,” Uddhav said, indicating that he would drive a hard bargain.
Pawar told reporters that the message was that people did not like “the arrogance of power”.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray, and Leader of Opposition in Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde who trounced estranged cousin and BJP minister Pankaja Munde in a keenly-contested poll battle were among the prominent winners.
“Clear mandate by voters, the next governmentt will be of BJP-Sena mahayuti (grand alliance),” Fadnavis told reporters.
In an electoral contest in Haryana with no clear winner, Dushyant Chautala could well emerge the kingmaker. The INLD was leading in one, Independents in seven and the BSP in one.
Taking a swipe at the BJP’s “Mission 75”, Chautala said it would fall way short of its target of winning 75 seats.
Declaring that his party will hold the key to formation of the next government he told reporters, “People of Haryana want change.”
Asked which party the JJP would support, he said, “It’s too early to say anything. We will first summon a meeting of our MLAs, decide who would be our leader in the House and then take it further.”
The people of Haryana had rejected the ruling BJP and was ready to “embrace a new dawn of justice,” said state Congress chief Kumari Selja.
“Haryana has given the verdict–it will not tolerate @BJP4Haryana’s misgovernance any more. Choosing to leave behind the maladies inflicted on its people in last 5years,the state is ready to embrace a new dawn of justice & equality under the leadership of @INCHaryana,” Selja tweeted.
Senior Congress leader and former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who won from his stronghold Garhi Sampla-Kiloi in Rohtak district, urged non-BJP outfits to join hands.
In what appears to be a setback for the BJP, which placed considerable emphasis on Article 370, Jammu and Kashmir and other national issues in this campaign, seven of its ministers, assembly Speaker and state party chief in Haryana lost or were trailing.
Subdued atmosphere at BJP headquarters
The BJP national headquarters here wore a subdued look for much of the day on Thursday as it emerged that the party’s performance in Maharashtra and Haryana assembly polls fell short of expectation, especially in the northern state where it appeared unlikely to get majority.
There were not much celebration even though its spokespersons exuded confidence that the BJP will be able to form government in Haryana as well after it appeared set to get a majority in Maharashtra.
“Congress is a tired party and BJP is energetic. And, this energy is the genesis of democracy and that is what is needed by the people,” BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra said, as he lauded the party’s show in Maharashtra.
GVL Narasimha Rao, also a spokesperson, when asked about the close contest with the Congress in Haryana, said, “Congress these days sees a victory in their losses too, or calls it moral victory, instead of a defeat.”
“Haryana has traditionally been a Congress stronghold. And, until 2014, our vote share was not even 2 per cent. It was in 2014 that we scripted a big win,” he told reporters.
Responding to taunts by Congress that people of Haryana have rejected M L Khattar and BJP there, he said, “Congress is in a hurry”.
“The trends are coming and we are leading in both states. And, we are looking forward to form government in Haryana too by emerging as the single largest party,” he said.
“And, if we fall short of the numbers in Haryana, then we will try to seek alliance with our small allies,” Rao said.
The BJP had coined the slogan of “abki baar 75 paar (will cross 75 this time)” for its poll campaigning in Haryana. It had 47 seats in the outgoing assembly.
Hanuman Kaushik, 40, who had come all the way from Haryana’s Bhiwani in the morning, was disappointed to see the low-key atmosphere at the BJP headquarters.
“No sweets, no flowers, no flag-waving, party workers are not jubilant, given the trends coming in from Haryana, much below the expectations,” he said.
Kaushik, who wore the ‘Chowkidar’ campaign t-shirt, alleged that local party leaders and workers had become complacent that “victory will come based on euphoria generated by the abrogation of special provisions of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir”.
“Work was not done on the ground-level much, compared to what rival Congress did,” claimed another party worker, Kisan Lal Bhandula.
Bhandula, who lives in Darya Ganj in Delhi, said he had been serving since the Jan Sangh days.
“You can see the mood is subdued at the BJP headquarters. Haryana trends are showing, we boasted of ’75 paar’ but looks like its not even ’40 paar’ yet. We should have worked more on the ground level,” he said.