Young Bites. Dated: 11/29/2019 12:08:35 PM

Amid the gripping drama in Maharashtra’s politics in the five weeks since the Assembly results were out on October 24, which is likely to end on Thursday with Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray being sworn in as chief minister in an unlikely alliance with the NCP and Congress, lies the stark reality of the BJP’s below par electoral performance. It’s this which eventually thwarted its ambition in India’s second largest and economically heavyweight state, just as it nearly did in Haryana for the same reason — declining popular support for the current saffron leadership. The BJP’s well-documented capacity to break conventions, subvert poll verdicts, break parties and induce defections — seen often in the past six years — was founded on the perception that it had the people’s strong backing, especially with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the helm. The ability to manipulate is weakened with falling public support. Also, besides being a party whose government at the Centre seems to have messed up the economy big time, the BJP has shown itself to be a one-trick horse — it can only play on communal sentiments of the majority community by using some pet themes (Kashmir, Ayodhya, seeing minorities as “infiltrators”, to be tackled with measures like the NRC. This was amply evident in the party’s campaign in Haryana and Maharashtra, besides the vilification of opponents. In these states it failed to have anything to say on state issues that have an immediate bearing on everyday life. To worsen matters, the party has so far given little evidence that it has the capacity to govern. It seeks to govern by slogans alone, and by intimidating opponents through a noholds- barred use of the state apparatus. In Maharashtra, this led to disenchantment from its oldest regional communal ally, the Shiv Sena. The Sena’s chances to lead the government brightened when it was backed by another key regional force, the NCP, led by the redoubtable Sharad Pawar. The regional parties, it seems, with some difficulty, managed to swing the support of the Congress, that initially seemed fixated on ideology and didn’t wish to help the Sena form a government. But the larger political reality finally prevailed. Besting the BJP in Maharashtra can — arguably — have a demonstration effect in other states. Pushing back the BJP, the new hegemon in public life, on the all-India plane is the fundamental object of most Opposition parties, notably the Congress, since the BJP is a party with a one-dimensional ideology. Its predominance affects not just politics but other aspects of life. With BJP’s oldest ally now gone, its regional allies in other states, with each of whom the saffron party has behaved in an overbearing fashion, are likely to be more interrogative. The first signs are visible in Jharkhand, where Assembly polls are due shortly. Maharashtra (and Haryana) have shown that the challenge to the BJP has grown. The ruling party’s vulnerability has been exposed, but it’s too early to draw larger generalisations.


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