Tamed victors: On Assembly poll results

The alliance of the BJP and the Shiv Sena retained power in Maharashtra and the BJP emerged as the single largest party in Haryana, substantially beating anti-incumbency in both States, but also falling short of their claims and rhetoric. In Haryana, the BJP will require the support of at least six MLAs outside its fold for a majority. The Opposition, despite their sluggish campaign and scattered thinking, exceeded expectation in both States. Results of by-elections in 51 Assembly seats and two Lok Sabha constituencies across 18 States were also announced on Thursday. Drawing any political trend lines based on these outcomes would be premature, but certain pointers are noteworthy. The BJP had front-loaded its campaign with nationalist topics such as the status of Kashmir and the National Register of Citizens, deliberately avoiding any serious discussion on the economy and livelihood issues. It is possible that the BJP and allies got what they got because of this campaign, but these issues did not evidently overwhelm other voter concerns such as unemployment and farm crisis. The BJP and the Sena are winners, but tamed and curtailed compared to the Assembly results of 2014 and the Lok Sabha election earlier this year. The rout of many turncoats from other parties that the BJP had recruited recently is an evident expression of public disapproval of such tactics. The results also indicate that the BJP’s current arsenal is more effective in national elections. The results from Tamil Nadu where the AIADMK did well and Kerala where the Left appeared to regain some lost ground are also indicative of the differentiation that the voters tend to make between Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. The Haryana Governor must now ensure that the formation of a new coalition government is transparent as there could be attempts to influence legislators and parties.

The Congress-NCP alliance in Maharashtra improved its tally considerably and in Haryana, the Congress doubled its 2014 tally. In Haryana, the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) emerged as a formidable regional outfit. These are indicators of a yearning among the electorate for an alternative to the BJP that has amassed political power but also alienated many social groups. That this growth of the Opposition has happened despite the absence of any coherence or coordination at the top is remarkable. Faced with brazen harassment by state agencies, and dispirited by serial electoral setbacks, the Opposition had become lifeless but these results indicate that prospects of an alternative are not entirely dark, particularly when it comes to State polls. The BJP might be tempted to intensify its hyper-nationalist agenda to boost its performance, while the Opposition might slip back into a comatose state, counting inaction itself as a strategy. Both would be disastrous, for the respective camps and the country.

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 5:16:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/tamed-victors/article29789945.ece

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