It’s a clean sweep for the BJP in Maharashtra and Haryana — and exit polls agree

News from the ground indicates the BJP’s muscular nationalism has worked in Haryana, while the Congress barely gets a mention in Maharashtra.

It’s a clean sweep for the BJP in Maharashtra and Haryana — and exit polls agree
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Assembly elections concluded in Maharashtra and Haryana on Monday. More than 10 crore voters were on the electoral rolls to elect 378 MLAs in the two states — 90 in Haryana and 288 in Maharashtra.

When the polling booths closed at 6 pm, Haryana had recorded a turnout of 67 per cent. In Maharashtra, the figure was 60 per cent. 

Newslaundry covered both elections on the ground, and here’s our assessment of the electoral mood.

Haryana

If exit polls are anything to go by, the Bharatiya Janata Party is set for a walkover in Haryana. An exit poll by TV9 Bharatvarsh gives 47 seats (the minimum) to the saffron party and while that by NewsX-Polstrat gives it 77 seats (the maximum) — clearly anticipating another term for the Manohar Lal Khattar government.

In 2014, the BJP bagged 47 seats and 33 per cent of the vote share in Haryana. Second place went not to the Congress but the Indian National Lok Dal, led by former deputy prime minister, Om Prakash Chautala. The INLD won 19 seats with 24 per cent of the vote.

Despite this, in regions such as West Haryana, farmers accuse the government of being anti-poor. They claim their fields have dried up, produce is unprofitable, the irrigation supply is distorted, and the local bureaucracy is corrupt. Importantly, Haryanavis — and not just the Jats — accuse the incumbent government of widening the caste divide.

In a hyper-urban setting like Gurgaon, the BJP faces mild disappointment on the ground due to a lack of governance, especially the under-maintenance of urban infrastructure. Roads are bumpy, traffic tedious, air polluted, sanitation abysmal. 

Yet, the pendulum of electoral approbation will not swing in favour of the Congress. In Gurgaon, voters in Jacubpura told Newslaundry that the Congress candidate hasn’t been seen in the neighbourhood in years. In Rohtak, this correspondent watched as at least 60 party workers of the Haryana Congress were inducted into the BJP; they included both rural leaders of the grand old party and its suave IT cell experts.

A notable exception to this downward spiral might be the Congress’s Jatland supremo Bhupinder Hooda, who was the state’s chief minister for nine years, from 2005 to 2014. But here too, the Jat vote is split among the Congress, the INLD and its rebellious cousin, the Jannayak Janta Party. Some of the candidates, such as Nuh’s Zakir Hussain, had already seen the writing on the wall earlier in the year and switched to the BJP. 

The logic behind organising swashbuckling Modi and Shah rallies in Haryana is that the BJP knows it has delivered poorly on the ground. But it wants to contain the resulting disillusionment by pitching national pride and muscular politics. In the villages and neighbourhoods of Haryana, this logic has worked. Despite the BJP’s governance deficit, the Congress is set to bite the dust in Haryana.

Maharashtra

As voting ended in Maharashtra, speculation was rife that the “Mahayuti”, or grand alliance, of the BJP, Shiv Sena and their partners will form the government again. The rumours gained traction with various exit polls predicting a sweep for the 2019 Assembly election.

Times Now’s exit poll predicted 230 seats for the saffron alliance and only 48 for the Congress-NCP — an almost 50 per cent drop in the latter’s independent performance in the previous election. Ten seats have been predicted for the partners of all four parties.

The BJP-Shiv Sena’s alliance partners include the Republican Party of India (Athawale), Rashtriya Samaj Paksha, Rayat Kranti Sanghatana and Shiv Sangram. The Congress-NCP alliance’s partners are the Swabhimani Shetkari Saghtana, Peasants and Workers Party of India, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Vikas Aghadi and People’s Republican Party. 

The India Today-My Axis exit poll predicted 181 seats for the BJP-Sena alliance, 81 seats for the Congress-NCP, and 26 for alliance partners of all four parties. ABP-C Voter gave 204 of the 288 seats to the BJP-Shiv Sena combine, 69 to Congress-NCP, and 15 to their alliance partners.

The BJP-Sena alliance got the highest number of seats in the News18-IPSOS exit poll, which gave it 243 seats. The Congress-NCP coalition came a distant second in the predictions with 41 seats, and four seats for alliance partners.

Newslaundry reported from the ground in Maharashtra in the run-up to the election and found that the BJP was the clear favourite of the voters. The BJP’s support base will boost the Shiv Sena, which lost its status as the Hindutva coalition’s senior ally in the state in the previous election. 

While the two parties contested in alliance, they had separate manifestos. The BJP contested 150 seats, the Sena 124, with the remaining seats going to their partners. The BJP is likely to win 120 to 130 seats on its own, mirroring its performance in the 2014 Assembly election when it won 122 seats. The Shiv Sena is predicted to win between 58 and 68 seats, compared to 63 seats in 2014.

Compared to 2014, the party with the possibility of drastically improving its chances is the NCP. Party chief Sharad Pawar aggressively campaigned this year. The NCP won 41 seats in 2014 but is tipped to win about 50 this year. On the other hand, the party that is talked about the least is the Congress, which won 42 seats in 2014 and is expected to secure only 30-35 this time.

Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi is expected to substantially damage the Congress by capturing its Dalit vote bank — just as it did in the Lok Sabha election in May. In the Assembly election, the VBA has contested on 235 seats and is likely to win up to five seats. Rounding out the group is Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, which contested 101 seats but isn’t expected to have any impact on the BJP-Sena’s winning formula.

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