After the return of the Narendra Modi government with a thumping majority in the 2019 general elections, this is the first occasion when it will be determined whether Modi’s popularity is still intact, or whether Congress and other regional parties have the capability to challenge his popularity. (PTI)
After the return of the Narendra Modi government with a thumping majority in the 2019 general elections, this is the first occasion when it will be determined whether Modi’s popularity is still intact, or whether Congress and other regional parties have the capability to challenge his popularity. (PTI)

Opinion | Assembly polls opposition’s next big opportunity

For democracy, a strong Opposition is very important. At present, it is missing entirely

The excitement around the elections in important states of the country is at its peak. While the assembly elections in Haryana and Maharashtra will be held on 21 October, elections in Jharkhand, Delhi and Bihar are due in early 2020. After the return of the Narendra Modi government with a thumping majority in the 2019 general elections, this is the first occasion when it will be determined whether Modi’s popularity is still intact, or whether Congress and other regional parties have the capability to challenge his popularity. These elections will also determine the direction and the state of politics in the coming days.

For democracy, a strong Opposition is very important. Unfortunately, the Opposition is missing entirely at present. These elections can be a golden opportunity for the regional Opposition parties to establish their presence. If they miss it, then they will get it only in the 2024 . The matter is not limited to the elections in Haryana and Maharashtra. After a few weeks, Jharkhand, too, will be in the grip of election fever. The assembly elections in Delhi and Bihar are also scheduled to be held at the beginning of the new year. So, the political chain of events starting from the elections in Haryana and Maharashtra is going to be quite significant.

You must be wondering about the reasons for this long prelude to the assembly elections. Needless to mention, these five states send 119 members to the Lok Sabha and 49 to the Rajya Sabha. The mandate of these states will not only impact these provinces, but also the politics at the Centre. When it comes to getting a bill passed or taking an important decision, the government needs a majority in both the Houses and, on occasions, two-thirds of the majority.

Let’s begin with Maharashtra. This state once was in the complete grip of the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party. This election is going to be an acid test for Sharad Pawar who has dominated the region for almost four decades like a Maratha satrap. The important leaders of his party are drifting away, he himself is old and unwell, and his ally, the Congress, is also very weak in the region.

There have been frictions in the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena ruling coalition in Maharashtra. Before the general elections, it seemed that the Shiv Sena was getting ready to take the plunge on its own. However, Uddhav Thackeray agreed to go with the alliance. And, the results of the 2019 general elections made it clear to him that the BJP has now evolved as the ‘senior’ partner in the coalition. Perhaps that was why he launched his son for the assembly elections this time. This step should be understood as a decisive turn in Sena politics. The founder of Shiv Sena, Balasaheb Thackeray, believed more in supporting candidates to contest elections, instead of himself contesting. This is the reason that Shiv Sena remained in power for almost four-and-a-half years, but Matoshree remained more powerful than the chief minister’s secretariat. By launching Aaditya in these elections, Uddhav wants to send across this message to Shiv Sena workers that the masters of Matoshree will no longer remain in the wings and, instead, they will lead from the front.

If you see the cracks becoming wider in the ruling coalition in the coming days, it should not surprise you.

The situation is quite the opposite in Haryana. There are 90 assembly seats in the state. In the last elections, the saffron party took hold of more than half the seats—that is 47. The ruling Congress won only 15 and remained in the third place, while Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal took second place with 19 seats. The BJP clearly got the mandate here, but the Opposition was not quite finished. But the general elections completely annihilated the Opposition. The ruling party got 58% of the votes and won all the 10 Lok Sabha seats. The Congress could only win 28.5% of the votes. Like Maharashtra, the Opposition here also is a victim of discord and disintegration.

It’s certain, if no miracle takes place in Maharashtra and Haryana, the Opposition will face another severe jolt. The first to be impacted by this will be Jharkhand, because in these times of sensational social media, political and social events have a far-reaching effect. Therefore, after Jharkhand, the focus will naturally be on Bihar and Delhi. In Bihar, Nitish Kumar had contested the previous assembly elections in alliance with Lalu Yadav. This time Nitish is with the BJP. If the BJP wins elections in all these three states with ease, will it then consider Nitish as the leader of the coalition? As of now, it’s being said that Nitish is the ‘captain’, but the example of Shiv Sena is before us. We will have to wait a little for the answer.

One more question: Will Arvind Kejriwal be able to rein in the winning spree of the BJP in Delhi? We have no other option but to wait for the answer to this question, too.

Before winding up, please accept the heartfelt greetings of Vijayadashmi. Let’s hope the venom of elections will not spoil the sweetness of this festive season.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. His Twitter handle is @shekarkahin

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