The BJP’s achche din juggernaut rolls on. Tripling its numbers in an assembly election is no mean feat. But Amit Shah and Narendra Modi are on a roll. This partnership has brought in more laurels to the BJP than the Vajpayee-Advani partnership. One victory after another. And nobody is complaining though some, even in the BJP, do seem a bit overwhelmed.
In Maharashtra, the BJP had just under one month to cope with the loss of its regional ally, set a poll agenda, chart out a strategy for going it alone, bear the barbs of the Shiv Sena and face the electorate without a chief minister candidate. What did it have going for it? An anti-incumbency factor against the Congress-NCP combine and a Modi wave in the country. Maharashtra did not give a clear verdict in favour of the BJP. With all parties going solo, this fractured mandate should not have been a surprise but pollsters and the media probably got carried away with the wave-factor.
BJP supporters celebrate the party’s victory in Maharashtra near the BJP office at Nariman Point. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Without a clear majority, and an ‘indecent proposal’ from the NCP of outside support, the BJP seemed to waver between being spoiled for choice — of having to choose from illegitimate suitors.
The Congress seemed to be relishing the discomfiture of the BJP in announcing a clear victory in Maharashtra. Sandeep Dixit (Congress) mincing no words while saying, “Obviously dirty politics has started. It has something to do with money and a dirty alliance.”
The BJP is well aware that the vote in Maharashtra has gone in their favour because the electorate believed that it is the only party that could provide a non-corrupt development agenda for the next five years. Negotiating with the NCP, even if it is for the greater good of so called stability in Maharashtra, will be seen as supping with the devil. The Maharashtra verdict was a clear NO to the Congress-NCP combine. After 15 years, Maharashtra wants a change. A backdoor entry by the NCP, facilitated by outside support, can never be acceptable to even the BJP cadre. And Modi-Shah would be very well aware of this. In the words of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, khichdii nahii kheer paka rahey hain. The people of India have come to expect pudding not khichdi from the BJP.
Earlier this year, it had seemed that the BJP would form government in Delhi but lost by a hair’s breadth plummeting the state into a crisis situation with AAP forming a weak government, which fell under its own weight.
At the BJP headquarters in Ashoka Road in downtown Delhi, slogans of ‘Ab Dilli ki baari hai’ rent the air; party workers in breathless frenzy, wanting to sweep in one state after the other, not waiting to rest on laurels. The BJP wants to mop up as many states as it can mop up. Maharashtra and Haryana bring in 24 seats in the Rajya Sabha where the BJP does not have a majority. The BJP knows only too well that it means seeing many bills die in the Upper House because of lack of numbers. BJP had similarly stalled the UPA’s bills in the past. Currently the BJP has just 42 members in the Rajya Sabha as compared to the Congress’ 69. In the next two years, several states will go for elections and Modi-Shah would want to capture as many states, and thereby Rajya Sabha seats, as possible.
A win in Haryana was to be the cherry on the pie. The pie itself is Maharashtra. Modi needs this industrial hub’s endorsement for his economic reforms agenda. He needs the thumbs-up from Dalal Street for his ‘Make in India’ campaign. Without waiting for Sunday’s results, the Modi government on Saturday jettisoned control on diesel prices and increased natural gas tariffs. Modi has his new budget team in place with Arvind Subramanian as Chief Economic Advisor and Rajiv Mehrishi as the new Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs. Twenty senior officials were transferred recently even as rumours grow of a cabinet reshuffle before the start of the winter session of Parliament.
Governance is on the agenda but politics cannot be ignored. Maharashtra needs to be in the BJP kitty, as does Delhi in the near future. It looks good in the bio-data. Is compromise the only way to a pragmatic political solution to the hung verdict of Maharashtra?
Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on twitter @smitaprakash