The results of the Assembly polls in Haryana and Maharashtra, and the by-polls to 51 Assembly seats across 17 states and two Lok Sabha constituencies, announced on Thursday, belied expectations of a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sweep.
In less than 150 days since the BJP and its allies won by a landslide in the Lok Sabha polls, electorates in Maharashtra and Haryana looked beyond such national issues as the scrapping of Article 370, which were the BJP’s leitmotif for its election campaign, jolting the party out of complacence amid widespread concerns over the economic slowdown and rural distress.
The election results are set to reinvigorate a moribund Opposition, make BJP’s march to a Rajya Sabha majority more arduous, strengthen the hands of the veterans in the Congress in their tussle with former party chief Rahul Gandhi, and give a fresh lease of life to the political careers of regional satraps such as Sharad Pawar and Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
With Assembly polls in Jharkhand and Bihar, along with Delhi, scheduled for next year, Thursday’s outcome could force the BJP to accommodate the concerns of its smaller allies.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi put up a brave face as he addressed party workers in the national capital in the evening.
Modi said that the BJP emerging as the single-largest party in both the states was a vindication of the clean governments it had provided. He renewed his promise of the party working for the “development” of the two states. The evening celebrations at BJP offices were muted, as the poll results were far below expectations.
A majority eluded the BJP in Haryana, where it won 40 seats, down from 47 in 2014, and was six short of the majority mark in the House of 90.
The Congress, which soared to 31 seats under Hooda, termed it a “moral defeat” for the BJP.
A BJP government in Haryana looked probable with help from some of the seven independents and Gopal Kanda-led Haryana Lokhit Party.
In Maharashtra, the BJP had contested 164 seats, along with some smaller parties, while ally Shiv Sena contested 124 seat of the total 288 seats.
With the BJP, which was leading in 105 seats, falling way short of the halfway mark of 144, the Sena, leading on 56 seats, flexed muscles. Its chief, Uddhav Thackeray reminded the BJP of promises not fulfilled.
“We agreed to contest fewer seats (than the BJP), but I cannot accommodate the BJP every time. I should allow my party to grow,” Thackeray said. The Sena is set to insist that the parties have a system of rotation for the post of chief minister. The Opposition muddied the waters as it suggested that the Sena, Congress and NCP come together to form the government.
The PM indicated Maharashtra CM and Haryana CM would continue. Modi said both were “administratively inexperienced” before taking over their current jobs, but provided clean governments.
He said the BJP believed in taking along its allies, indicating that his party and the Sena would reach an agreement. At its meeting, the BJP parliamentary board authorised Shah to take all the decisions regarding government formations in the two states.