Pawar and Chautala Prove There's Still Hope for Regional Parties if Satraps Show Stomach for a Fight
Maharashtra and Haryana were dubbed perhaps the most tepid elections in contemporary electoral politics. But politics, like life, has a knack to throw up surprises every now and then.
When the BJP’s dominance of the political landscape nudged pundits to make doomsday prophesies on all and sundry in the opposition, results allude to persisting social strains which may re-emerge to influence the landscape when the conditions alter on the ground.
BJP’s domination of the polity since 2014 Lok Sabha win was seen by many as an irreversible change in the polity of the nation; a trend which was only reinforced by the party’s stellar performance in 2017 UP assembly polls followed by 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Despite building a Mahagathbandhan, the Samajwadi Party, BSP and RLD were comprehensively pulverized in Uttar Pradesh.
Lo and behold, six months later, a hitherto moribund party borne out of continual squabbling and fratricide in Tau Devi Lal’s family emerges as kingmaker in Haryana! Dushyant Chautala’s JJP, despite divisions within, has firmly grabbed the reins of Jat politics and sentiments in districts which are their traditional strongholds in the Old Hissar district.
Similarly, in Old Rohtak district comprising Jajjhar and Sonipat, Bhupinder Singh Hooda had bounced back in what appears to be Jat consolidation in these pockets. Six months ago, the BJP won all 10 Lok Sabha seats, and led in 79 out of total 90 assembly segments in the state.
Every second household in Haryana has a member serving in the defence and para-military forces; and the BJP during its election campaign extensively talked about scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
In Maharashtra, the fight against the BJP-Shiv Sena combine was led by Sharad Pawar. For the UPA, it was an election lost before campaigning had even begun. The Maratha strongman was the last man standing who did not give up even in the face of mass exodus from NCP-Congress to Sena and BJP.
Few months ago, talks of merger between the two UPA allies were called off after the NCP seemed reluctant to transfer party assets to the Congress. Twenty years after he left the Congress, Pawar’s NCP has finally emerged out of the shadow of ‘big brother’ Congress and may even bag the Leader of Opposition post in the state assembly.
Both Chautala and Pawar have demonstrated in these elections that there is still space for regional parties in the national polity provided these outfits cater to the sentiments of their respective constituency and have stomach to put up a fight.
It also shows that the Indian voter has matured over the years to make a discernible choice in national and provincial elections.
The outcome of these elections holds hope for regional outfits which will face the electors later this year and next. Hemant Soren’s JMM would now seek to stitch a credible alliance with non-BJP parties in Jharkhand. So would Arvind Kerjiwal’s Aam Aadmi Party, bracing itself for polls early next year in Delhi.
Many in Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) would also take a long and a hard look at the outcome in Haryana and Maharashtra. Politics, after all, is the art of the possible.