Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

BJP’s lower tally shows that rivals have clawed back

In both Maharashtra and Haryana, the opposition—the Congress and regional parties—sprung to significance

The BJP-Shiv Sena combine returned to power in Maharashtra with a reduced margin, while Haryana threw up a hung mandate. In both the states, the opposition—the Congress and regional parties—sprung to significance. Mint analyses the factors that shaped the outcome.

Anti-incumbency

One of the key factors behind BJP’s reduced tally in both the states could be anti-incumbency. While the outgoing state governments were in power for only one term, the opposition had tried to build a narrative of non-performance. Nationally, the incumbents had done well in the Lok Sabha elections, winning 51 out of 58 seats in the two states combined. The verdict on Thursday indicate that just five months later when it came to assembly elections, the electorate looked for other options and some of them shifted their preferences. State-level issues amounting to anti-incumbency could hence have played a key role.

State of the economy

Agrarian distress was one of the key factors for the BJP losing three north Indian states to the Congress in the assembly polls in December. The decreased tally of the BJP in Maharashtra and Haryana comes amid a severe demand slowdown in the economy. Opposition parties, particularly the Congress, had in their poll campaign targeted the Centre over inflation and sought to link it with unemployment. This came in the wake of Asia’s third-largest economy growing at its slowest pace in six years in the June quarter at 5% and IMF slashing its growth forecast for India to 6.1% for the current fiscal from its July projection of 7%.

Social engineering

Political parties focused on social engineering and caste consolidation for the assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana. Besides, the elections were held against the backdrop of Jat reservation protests in Haryana. Dalit community voters were also crucial for the outcome as Maharashtra alone has 29 seats reserved for Scheduled Castes, while Haryana has 17.

Opposition rebounds

In the run-up to the assembly elections, most exit polls indicated that opposition parties would not be able give a tough fight to incumbents. When votes were counted on Thursday, most key opposition parties bettered their tally. The Congress improved its performance in the two states, Sharad Pawar’s NCP made a comeback to regional dominance in Maharashtra and the Dushyant Chautala-led Jannayak Janta Party was on course to becoming a kingmaker. The performance of opposition parties could impact state polls in Delhi and Jharkhand.

Low turnout

Both Maharashtra and Haryana had a low turnout for the single-phase polling on Monday. This could be a key reason for the incumbents’ lower tally. In the 2014 assembly polls, Haryana clocked one of its highest turnouts of 76.13%. This time it was down to 68.47%. Maharashtra saw a dip in turnout to 61.28% from 63.08%. In most state polls, and the general elections in May, turnouts largely improved from those in previous polls. A higher turnout often leads to decisive mandates—the BJP returning to power at the Centre being one such case.

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