The campaigning for the Assembly polls in Haryana and Maharashtra ended on Saturday evening with speculation mostly over whether the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will win a two-thirds or a three-fourths majority in Haryana, and if the late surge in favour of Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) will prevent an embarrassing rout of the Opposition in Maharashtra.
The polling is on Monday and the counting of votes on October 24. Over the past month, the BJP succeeded in keeping the political narrative focused on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership and scrapping of provisions of Article 370 rather than the economic slowdown.
While a BJP win would further consolidate its political domination, the more interesting questions face the Congress and the NCP — if they, as opinion polls predict, would suffer massive defeats.
Pawar is not only fighting for his party’s survival, but is also at work to revive the party by projecting younger leaders from outside his political dynasty. A video of his speech in Satara on Thursday has gone viral on social media. Pawar, drenched in rain, apologised to the people for fielding a candidate who crossed over to the BJP.
Anecdotal evidence, as also increasing number of people turning up in his public rallies, suggests that the NCP has witnessed somewhat of a revival after the Enforcement Directorate moved against Pawar.
However, people at large remember that the Congress-NCP alliance ran the government in Maharashtra for 15 years from 1999 to 2014, and complain of their dynastic hold over sugar and bank co-operatives. His close friends and associates say that at 78, Pawar is concerned about the legacy he would leave behind.
The Congress faces an equally interesting fate. October 24 could accelerate the party towards a denouement of the tussle between the younger leaders that Rahul Gandhi leads, versus the veterans led by party treasurer Ahmed Patel.
Such is the tension between the two factions that former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda cancelled his plans to address a rally in Mahendragarh in Haryana on Friday after his office came to know that Sonia Gandhi will not be travelling to the place, but Rahul Gandhi will. There is much bad blood between the two after Kumari Selja, at the behest of Hooda, replaced Ashok Tanwar as the state unit chief. Tanwar is close to Rahul Gandhi.
With Rahul Gandhi having quit as party chief, and the reins now in the hands of the seniors, it is they who are likely to be blamed for the anticipated routs of the party in the two states. In Maharashtra, none of its senior leaders campaigned for the party, restricting themselves in their respective constituencies.
Former chief minister Ashok Chavan did not campaign beyond his Bhokar seat, while Sushilkumar Shinde spent most of the time campaigning for his daughter in Solapur Central seat and Prithviraj Chavan remained in his Karad seat.
According to sources, those close to Rahul Gandhi have phoned several leaders to find out if they were willing to support him in his final battle against the veterans in the coming weeks.
Haryana has 90 Assembly seats, and Maharashtra 288. Opinion polls have predicted a comfortable win for the BJP in Haryana, and the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in Maharashtra. The BJP, and its allies, currently rule both the states.