Local matters: on poll issues in Maharashtra and Haryana

Issues of livelihood, governance should shape poll campaigns in Maharashtra and Haryana

Politics is set to take the centre stage in national debates with the announcement of Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana, though there was hardly a lull after the Parliament election earlier this year. The BJP is in power in both States currently, in Maharashtra with its oldest and most combative ally, the Shiv Sena. In 2014, the BJP got its first Chief Ministers in both the States, reaping the reward for some audacious political moves. In Maharashtra it gambled away its alliance with the Shiv Sena and contested separately to win 122 seats compared to Sena’s 63. The Sena lost its position as the alliance leader in the post-poll alliance, and that reality will now be formalised in a pre-poll alliance. In Haryana, the BJP dramatically rose, assembling a non-Jat social coalition and later reinforcing it by appointing a non-Jat CM in Manohar Lal Khattar. In Maharashtra too, the party’s political strategy involved the appointment of a non-Maratha as CM — Devendra Fadnavis. In both States, the Prime Minister’s popularity provided further momentum to the BJP’s rise, which continued into 2019. The track records of the State governments can be debated but the party’s advantage over its political rivals is evident.

The disarray in the opposition ranks, which is partly a reflection of the underlying social factors including deep communalisation of the polity in both States, is the biggest advantage for the BJP. In Maharashtra, the Congress-NCP alliance had long become a bastion of dynastic politics and vested interests. The BJP’s strong-arm tactics has contributed to furthering the existing vulnerabilities of the alliance. In Haryana, the Opposition is split into three — the Congress, the Indian National Lok Dal and another breakaway faction of the party. These groups are in the grip of the dominant Jat community, which gives a tremendous starting advantage to the BJP. The Congress, under pressure from former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, replaced its State Chief Ashok Tanwar, a Dalit, just ahead of the poll announcement. Altogether, the Congress’s messaging has been uninspiring for its crucial social base of disadvantaged groups. Despite these remarkable advantages, the BJP has shown a tendency in recent weeks to stir up controversial issues. In Haryana, the CM wants to implement the NRC; in Maharashtra the government is, unlinked to the NRC, planning detention centres for undocumented people suspected to be immigrants. The BJP has also sought to bring issues such as the hollowing out of Article 370 into the campaigns. As two industrialised States, Haryana and Maharashtra must be at the centre of any effort to infuse fresh momentum in the country’s sagging economy. Not surprisingly, these States are also hosts to migrant communities. A sharp focus on governance and economy at the State level in the forthcoming campaign will be helpful not only for Maharashtra and Haryana but for the entire country too.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 9:57:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/local-matters/article29483221.ece

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