Ruling BJP is looking to return to power in both states, while Congress is fighting for political relevance
This is the first set of assembly polls since Modi-led BJP returned to power at the Centre this year
NEW DELHI :
The stage is set for the crucial electoral battle in Maharashtra and Haryana with polling in both the states slated to take place on Monday.
While the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seeking to make history by returning to power in the two states, the Opposition led by the Congress party is fighting for political relevance after the 2019 Lok Sabha poll debacle.
This is the first set of assembly polls since Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP returned to power in the national elections earlier this year with a historic mandate, pushing the Congress-led Opposition parties to a reduced electoral dominance. The two arch rivals are up against each other in Haryana. In Maharashtra, the contest will be between the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) parties of the BJP and Shiv Sena, and the Congress along with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
The polls will hence not only test the popularity of the incumbent BJP-led state governments under chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in Maharashtra and Manohar Lal Khattar in Haryana, but also be an indicator of how much ground the Congress and other regional Opposition parties have covered ever since their drubbing in the national elections in May. This would also be the first polls since Sonia Gandhi returned as Congress president in August.
The polling will seal the fate of 1,169 candidates in Haryana for 90 assembly constituency while Maharashtra has a total of 3,237 candidates in the fray for 288 seats. The BJP has tried to prop up issues related to national security and abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A in Jammu and Kashmir, while the Congress is concentrating on economic slowdown and unemployment issues along with rural distress to counter the narrative of the BJP.
In Maharashtra, it is a clash of alliances as incumbent BJP-Shiv Sena who are contesting 164 and 124 seats, respectively will take on Congress-NCP alliance which are contesting 147 and 121 seats, respectively. The index of opposition unity, which faced a setback in recent Lok Sabha polls, is also at stake in Maharashtra.
In Haryana, the Congress is battling internal troubles and a divided Opposition. It is taking on an electorally resurgent BJP under Khattar. Former Haryana Congress chief Ashok Tanwar raised a banner of revolt against the state’s senior leadership and quit the party, offering his support to Dushyant Chautala-led Jannayak Janata Party (JJP).
“It is the first state elections after national election and in that sense, it is very significant. Maharashtra is a politically crucial state. There is a lacklustre campaign by Congress and that is largely because of the kind of win Modi had in Lok Sabha elections has led to a fatigue in the Opposition ranks. The Opposition will take time to build its narrative," said Subrata Mukherjee, a New Delhi-based political analyst.
“In the last three elections, whoever wins at the Centre wins in these two states too. In Haryana, the Congress has been in disarray for some time now but I think in Maharashtra, the Opposition will do better than May because NCP chief Sharad Pawar has led a strong ground campaign. Nonetheless, it is widely speculated that the BJP and its allies will do well in this election," he added.