370 to decide the fate of 288 in Maha
With barely a month to go for the Assembly polls, the ruling BJP tries to flex its muscles to gain majority
The narrative for Maharashtra and Haryana Assembly polls has been defined much before political pundits join the dots after the people's verdict. Stakeholders shouldn't expect much of a discussion on daily issues, particularly from the ruling party, even as the opposition should be seen voicing their concerns in seeking a change in the Mantralaya's sixth floor office.
What is the narrative? It's the abrogation of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir, which according to BJP's national president Amit Shah was PM Narendra Modi's historic fulfillment of a promise that the right-wing party had given several decades ago. Shah told party workers in Mumbai to reach each household with the party's achievement and a question as to why principal opponents — Congress and Nationalist Congress Party — have opposed the decision that a majority of the country's population has welcomed and appreciated.
Smart move, indeed. The BJP, now enjoying an upper hand over the allies like Shiv Sena and Opposition, does not want any other poll plank. Over the economic slowdown, which the Modi government has accepted reluctantly, the Centre has rolled back decisions that would have added to the slowdown. The Opposition is focusing on the economy, unemployment, farm crisis and the big hit the industrial and manufacturing sectors have taken since the NDA II's ruling. The BJP, however, has gone all out to overshadow the Opposition campaign for the October 21 elections. The ruling party is confident that the method would succeed because of an overwhelming verdict of Lok Sabha polls this year. The abrogation of Article 370 has come as an icing on BJP's 'nationalist' cake. Shah has asked voters to show anti-nationals their place.
All for majority
Why shouldn't BJP that has won over 300 Lok Sabha seats on its own dream of having a majority government in Maharashtra where no individual party has been able to cross a 150 mark in three decades? Shah, a master strategist, fell short of his efforts in 2014's Maharashtra Assembly polls after which frenemy Shiv Sena was brought in to support the Devendra Fadnavis-headed minority government. Fadnavis has managed a tight rope walk skillfully at the risk of being branded as Sena's staunch advocate. But the situation has changed now. The BJP is in a position to pull off a show on its own and form the government without Sena's 'noisy' crutches.
The alliance talks between the two hadn't moved forward till the time this piece was written. Apparently, Sena wants BJP to stick to a promise of 50 per cent share of seats in Maharashtra's 288, which a muscular BJP doesn't want to commit to. If it wants to stay politically relevant, the Sena might have to agree for less or forget the alliance which would get it benefits of power. The conditional approach shouldn't work any longer for the Sena. It might even lose power in Mumbai civic corporation next time.
Shah has made it clear that Fadnavis would be the next CM and BJP would get a majority. "I say we will make our majority government in any case because I have reasons to say so," said an aggressive Shah indicating that he wasn't interested in appeasing Shiv Sena.
With opposition still trying to put a collective strength together, barring the individual drive of a 78-year-old Sharad Pawar who has emerged as BJP's prime target because he might still dent the saffron ambitions, the BJP has completed its first round of camp through CM Fadanvis's Mahajanadesh Yatra. Some of Pawar's own men, a few Congressmen and Sena scion Aaditya Thackeray also went on touring the state seeking votes. However, the way an embarrassed, insulted and hurt NCP boss has now taken to the streets promising a fitting response to the turncoats has made the electoral turf a fertile ground for keenly-fought matches in certain places.
The one-man army of Pawar and a disoriented Congress which is projected to be a big loser, should be happy if they manage to stop BJP from reaching a majority mark. Others in the Opposition, including Prakash Ambedkar's Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi and Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena should again be seen splitting votes. We cannot exclude Shiv Sena from the scheme of things. It would be interesting to see how Sena maneuvers when BJP has already rendered its one-time big brother a 'na gharka na ghatka' factor.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore Send your feedback to email@example.com
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