NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hardline militarist profile took a beating in two key state polls on Thursday with Maharashtra returning a weakened ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) while in Haryana it fell short of a majority, which it earlier had.
In Maharashtra, the rightwing Hindu alliance of BJP and the Shiv Sena won or was leading in 158 contests in a house of 288 seats, 27 short from its previous poll tally, losing seven ministers and a deputy speaker in the bargain.
However, Modi praised the BJP chief ministers for “winning” in both states, claiming it was not easy to get a second term.
His party president Amit Shah declared two first victories in “Modi2.0”, reference to Modi’s parliamentary triumph in May this year.
The results of an abbreviated BJP clearly did not seem to endorse Modi’s policy of laying a siege on Kashmir and his relentless vitriol against Pakistan.
The results also account for a poor showing on the economic front, which has witnessed job losses, industrial slowdown and agrarian crisis without a remedy in sight.
The BJP swept the two states five years ago in the wake of Modi’s 2014 victory. The Congress, which is struggling with an interim president in Sonia Gandhi after Rahul Gandhi quit in despair over the 2019 parliamentary poll results, performed surprisingly well.
However, in Haryana, which has a 90- member assembly, the BJP won 40, below the half way mark while losing seven from its last tally.
The alliance of Congress and Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra saw BJP-Shiv Sena alliance losing 27 seats from the previous tally. The Congress-NCP alliance garnered 103 seats, 18 more than the last polls.
“The elections results are a beginning of change in Maharashtra. The results show that the people don’t like the arrogance of power. When you detach yourself from the ground realities, the people do not welcome it. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s claims of crossing 220 seats have not been accepted by the people,” NCP chief Sharad Pawar said.
He expressed his thanks to the opposition for fighting like a solid unit and took note of the unity showed by the Congress and NCP.
“Many leaders crossed their limits while making statements in their campaigns. Barring a few exceptions, the people have not supported the turncoats. The people have given us the mandate to sit in Opposition and we will follow it,” he said.
“I thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for coming to Maharashtra at least for the sake of elections. I also did not know that [Chief Minister Devendra] Fadnavis knew astrology, which could have been the only reason why he said that Pawar’s politics is finished in Maharashtra. It is now clear that these were only personal comments and he had nothing else to offer,” Pawar said.
Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2019