News Analysis: A local disconnect behind BJP’s poor showing

The fact that several Maharashtra, Haryana ministers lost reflects a ground-level disconnect

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:52 pm IST

Published - October 24, 2019 10:23 pm IST - NEW DELHI

On cloud nine: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis addressing the media on Thursday.

On cloud nine: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis addressing the media on Thursday.

As the not-so-happy news trickled in from Haryana and Maharashtra for the BJP, of not hitting the halfway mark in the former, and of facing the possibility of having to bank on a domineering ally to help run the government in the latter, one message that was universally accepted in the party was that State elections depend more on local issues, equations and leaders rather than national ones.

 

Assembly and Lok Sabha polls can throw up divergent mandates: this is especially true of Haryana, where the BJP swept all 10 parliamentary seats in the State in the general election (the party led in 79 Assembly segments) but ended up with about half the number (40 at the time of printing) in the Assembly election. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the party’s most dependable campaigner, stressed on the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir and other issues of nationalism during his rallies, while Home Minister Amit Shah spoke on the government’s intention to come up with a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC).

In contrast, opposition leaders in both States, Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Maharashtra, and the Congress’s Bhupendra Singh Hooda and Dushyant Chautala of the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) in Haryana, ran localised campaigns that caught the imagination of the voters. The fact that several ministers serving in the BJP governments in both Maharashtra and Haryana lost is a pointer to that local disconnect.

Enforcement Directorate notice

In Maharashtra, local BJP workers insist that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) notice sent to Mr. Pawar, which led to protests by NCP workers outside the agency’s office, was akin to “waking a sleeping tiger”. “He was dealing with issues within the Pawar family till then, this notice galvanised the party behind Sharad Rao Pawar,” said a party office bearer from Mumbai.

Rebels, BJP vs Sena

While the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance is one of the oldest in the NDA, the equations between the parties changed after the arrival of Mr. Modi on the national scene in 2014, and the BJP gaining the upper hand in terms of on ground support. The tensions flowing from those changed equations was visible this time around, with more than 30 rebel candidates fighting against the official alliance candidates, and in one case (in Kankavli) a candidate being officially put up by the Shiv Sena against Nitesh Rane of the BJP.

In Haryana, the BJP’s preference for social media celebrities and sports icons for party tickets annoyed party workers on the ground. In fact, at least four independents who won were rebels from the BJP.

While all these are factors that dragged down the BJP’s tally, the party is determined to form governments in both States. That will require canny negotiations with old allies and prospective ones, and should provide a heap of learning for the next set of polls due in Jharkhand and Delhi.

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