Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana and Maharashtra not only occupy three different corners of India, but also are politically very different places. On Thursday, the Congress party appeared to be within striking distance of forming governments in the three states after victories in assembly elections in these states.
Victory, however, is not a good expression for wins handed over on a platter. Yet, in all the three states, the opposition parties—the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), its allies and other regional parties—simply gifted a win to the Congress.
What is striking about the Congress’ victories is that they came about despite its poor governance record. Nowhere was this more evident than in Maharashtra. In spite of agrarian distress, joblessness and economic underperformance, the Congress secured a win. A somewhat similar situation prevailed in Haryana, where the governance record and agenda of the opposition Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) was better than that of the Congress. The INLD (from 2000 to 2005) took sound economic decisions that left the Congress with resources to further the development of the state. Arunachal Pradesh was no better. Governance and development apart, opposition parties failed to exploit political opportunities that came their way.
Maharashtra is a good example of this. The reason: the BJP and the Shiv Sena simply failed to act as a coherent bloc. One could say that Raj Thackeray’s Maharastra Navnirman Sena (MNS) ate into the BJP-Sena coalition’s vote base. That, however, would be too facile. Given that the MNS’ areas of influence lie in the Mumbai suburban region, what explains the coalition’s inability to snatch seats from the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) combination elsewhere? In fact, the BJP-Sena combine made no effort to gain politically from the acrimony between the Congress and the NCP.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
Similarly, in Haryana, where no party has won for two consecutive terms in recent memory, the Congress secured a second term. This was in spite of internal bickering and rebel candidates standing as independents. Here, too, the BJP took the foolhardy step of going alone. On its own, the BJP has never touched a respectable level of double-digit seats in the 90-member state legislative assembly. In fact, its inability to sew an alliance with the INLD (or any other potential partner) resulted in the non-Jat vote scattering.
This is a good chance for the Congress and its allies to do something positive. The United Progressive Alliance presides in New Delhi and victory in three important states should result in good coordination geared to development and governance. But if history is any measure of the future, that sounds optimistic.
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