Pointers from Elections
The emergence of the Bhartiya Janata Party as the single largest party in election for Maharashtra Assembly and the runaway victory in Haryana Assembly has not surprised anyone. These were very much on the cards. The deep demoralization in the ranks of the Indian National Congress and its refusal to learn any lesson from the shameful defeat in the Lok Sabha elections earlier this year had almost confirmed its exit from power in the two states. In fact, the failure of the BJP and the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra has ensured that the Congress and its former ally NCP saved themselves from a complete rout and have retained a sizeable presence in the House. Any such alliance between the two saffron parties could have yielded them more than a two-third majority in the 288-member Assembly.
However, the BJP’s share of 27.8% among popular votes and 122 seats are much less than what the Party was hoping to gain. Since all the four major claimants to power in Maharashtra fought their battles independent of each other, the 2014 Assembly election results serve to indicate their real individual strength and popular influence in the State touted as a progressive and developed state in India.
It is for the first time that the BJP will be taking over the reins of power in the State as a dominant partner in a coalition. The signals emanating from the mandate in the two states are unmistakably clear. First the BJP has expanded its appeal and can coerce its former partners to agree to its own terms. It is evident from the way Shiv Sena had to virtually beg for its place in the coalition in Maharashtra. Second, regional parties will henceforth feel a greater threat from the BJP than the Congress which has been, all but decimated all across the country barring a few pockets. The BJP has made massive forays into the Dalit votebanks as can be seen in Haryana where arrangement with Dera Sacha Sauda seems to have worked to its benefit. The Majlis Ittihadul Muslimeen, so far considered a party exclusively focused at Hyderabad, has sprung a surprise by winning two seats Maharashtra. It indicates a shift in preference of Muslims voters away from Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). India’s oldest party must take notice of a vital social component leaving its fold.
Overall the results paint a pessimistic picture of the Indian National Congress. The downslide of the party knows no stopping. It is in serious need of introspection, overhauling of the organization, review of the policies, change in the leadership and the style of functioning. It needs to review its steadfast commitment to dynastic nature of its leadership and refusal to come to terms with new social realities and methodologies. The Party’s continuing decline despite a hiatus of five month from the Lok Sabha election points to a need for seminal changes in ideology, policies and organization.