BJP in poll mode in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand
BJP has already begun its election campaign with yatras by chief ministers in Maharashtra and Haryana.
BJP will be contesting these Assembly elections as the party in power and the Lok Sabha win is expected to mitigate most of the anti-incumbency that would have built against the three governments. The saffron party will also play up the nationalist sentiments be it the Balakot strike or the recent abrogation of Article 370 that removed special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Another positive for BJP is that Congress is the main political adversary in Maharashtra and Haryana while in Jharkhand it may have a tacit or open understanding with JMM to take on the ruling party.
On Wednesday, Congress got the ball rolling in Haryana with the appointment of Kumari Selja as the state unit chief and former chief minister Bhupinder Hooda as the Election Committee head. BJP leader and Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has been carrying out his Jan Ashirwad Yatra since August 18 and the party is happy with the response from the people.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to attend the culmination rally of this yatra on September 8 at Rohtak- Hooda’s homeground. Khattar had faced a lot of flak as chief minister during the Jat reservation agitation and the arrest of Baba Ram Rahim but now appears in a strong position to get another term.
The infighting in Congress in Haryana and the split in INLD has made the job easy for BJP. Khattar is now virtually riding the TINA factor in the state. The Lok Sabha elections where BJP won all the 10 seats and both Bhupinder Hooda and his son Deependra were defeated, has further bolstered the saffron party’s prospects.
Moreover, BJP is playing the non-Jat card where it is trying to consolidate the votes of the Upper castes, Baniyas and traders (the chief minister represents this segment) and the OBCs. It does not have much support among Dalits who are likely to rally behind Congress. Both INLD and Congress are vying for the Jat votes.
In Maharashtra, the Maha Janadesh Yatra taken out by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has helped the BJP though it had to be done in two phases due to the floods. BJP’s main adversary Congress and NCP are saddled with infighting and this has sapped their strength. There is no senior Congress leader in Maharashtra around who the party can stand as a united force. NCP Chief Sharad Pawar is spending most of his energy in keeping his flock together.
NCP leaders are said to be queuing up at the BJP’s doors to jump ship and seek tickets. Pawar has trouble at home too with his nephew Ajit Pawar nursing his ambitions in state politics.
BJP has a bigger challenge within the NDA camp as Shiv Sena Chief Aditya Thackeray expressing the desire to contest elections. He has also taken out a yatra. Though BJP Chief Amit Shah announced last week at a party rally that Fadnavis will be chief minister, the first Thackeray to enter electoral politics will not play second fiddle and this is likely to lead to a conflict later.
The blow hot- blow cold relationship between BJP and Shiv Sena will be out to a test again when the issue of seat sharing comes up. Till now there is said to be a rough understanding that both will contest an equal number of seats in the 288 member Assembly. However, BJP may press for more seats.
Farmer distress, growing unemployment and the slump in the economy will haunt the BJP during the elections in Maharashtra. However, a weak opposition and the nationalist upsurge as well as the time-tested BJP-Shiv Sena alliance will help the ruling party.
BJP has also begun preparations for Jharkhand elections and polls there may be clubbed with Maharashtra and Haryana. Prime Minister Modi will be in Ranchi on September 12 for a party rally. JMM is the main opponent in the state and will bank on the tribal votes. BJP has a non-tribal chief minister in Raghubar Das and will woo the upper caste voters. Union Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda is likely to be fielded in the campaign to win the tribal votes.
Though Raghubar Das government has failed to impress in development work and the state still has bad roads in the cities, BJP is hopeful of another term.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma will be harnessed in all the three states to retain power.