The BJP’s poor showing in the by-elections in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan is a wake-up call for the party in the forthcoming state elections in Maharashtra and Haryana.
Though there is understandable glee in the Congress on the BJP’s poor showing less than four months after it won a stunning majority in the Lok Sabha elections in May, both the Congress and the BJP will do well to remember that these are by-elections and do not necessarily hold a mirror to the performance of the Centre.
There is a feeling of anti-incumbency in Maharashtra against the Congress-NCP government, and the aggressive campaigning of the Narendra Modi team in the run-up to the general elections will not help the Democratic Front government in the state. The state elections will be fought over local issues, and even over caste in certain constituencies.
The big gainer of the by-polls will be Shiv Sena, which will now try to bully the BJP into giving up more seats to fight as an alliance.
Even here, though, the Sena will have to be cautious as the BJP is gung-ho that it won more than a simple majority in May on its own. Its allies at the Centre have been reduced to mere sidekicks. If push comes to shove, the BJP may well ditch the Shiv Sena and go with the other Sena, Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.
Therefore, the alliance situation is quite precarious in the state, and even the slightest push can tilt the balance.
In all this, the Congress is treading with greater caution than any other party. Though Prithviraj Chavan will likely be the party’s sole chief ministerial candidate, he will face immense opposition from the NCP, a party that is hellbent on sidelining him. However, Chavan has the blessings of the Congress party president Sonia Gandhi, who might force him into going for a status quo alliance with the NCP.
This election, therefore, will be an interesting drama, with so many characters playing out their roles.