The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could be on course to making history as most exit polls on Monday predicted that the party will comfortably return to power in Haryana, while the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the BJP is headed for a landslide victory in Maharashtra.
The outcome of the assembly elections in the two states is crucial for Prime Minister Narendra Modi because both chief ministers, Maharashtra’s Devendra Fadnavis and Manohar Lal Khattar of Haryana, were handpicked by him after the BJP won the elections in 2014. Fadnavis and Khattar are known to have a close relationship with Modi since he was chief minister of Gujarat.
BJP’s ascent to electoral dominance is likely to further edge out Opposition parties, particularly the Congress, whose top leadership led a lacklustre campaign in the two states, which are the first elections since Sonia Gandhi returned as party president.
There was a 65.57% turnout in Haryana and 59.01% in Maharashtra as of 10pm in the single-phase polling on Monday. These figures are tentative and are likely to increase as more data pours in, Election Commission (EC) officials said at a briefing in the national capital on Monday evening.
Most exit polls released on Monday, soon after official polling ended, predicted that the NDA would get more than 200 out of the 288 seats in Maharashtra and that the BJP alone would get more than 70 out of the 90 seats in Haryana. If this holds true when results are announced, it will be the first time that a chief minister of the BJP will return to power in both these states.
“If the outcome of the elections as predicted by exit polls comes true, then it is a big endorsement for the prime minister. People voted for him in the Lok Sabha elections and the victory of Maharashtra and Haryana can also be credited to him. The BJP victory means that people continue to have immense faith in the Prime Minister’s leadership at the national and it also has an impact in states," said Badri Narayan, Allahabad-based political analyst and director at Govind Ballabh Pant Social Science Institute.
“A win for the BJP also means people have supported policies such as the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A and making instant triple talaq illegal. The performance of the BJP is also a reflection on Congress, which looks like a defeated and tired side. The disarray in the Opposition was visible in the campaign. It needs to find a new narrative if it wants to electorally challenge the BJP," he said.
The problems within the Congress, which had started surfacing after the Lok Sabha elections came to the fore in the assembly polls as Sonia Gandhi did not campaign, while the former president of the party, Rahul Gandhi, held only seven public meetings across the two states. Factionalism in the Congress in Haryana became the talking point, while in Maharashtra, both Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) witnessed desertions.
The electoral battle in the two states is also significant because Haryana witnessed a direct contest between Khattar and the Congress under former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, while Maharashtra was a clash of alliances between the BJP-Shiv Sena and the Congress-NCP.
These two states are the first elections since the BJP swept to power in Lok Sabha in May this year and the outcome could have an impact on upcoming assembly elections, particularly in Jharkhand and Delhi, over the next four months. The performance of the BJP in Haryana is also crucial because the party had won all 10 seats in the state in the Lok Sabha polls while the BJP and Shiv Sena combine had a won majority of seats in Maharashtra.
“The BJP is going to form the government in both the states, Haryana and Maharashtra. We are confident that people will continue to support Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his philosophy and his policies," Union minister of petroleum and natural gas, Dharmendra Pradhan said.
The outcome of the two assembly elections is also important for the NDA leadership as the leaders of the BJP have campaigned on issues of abrogation of Article 370 and 35 A and making instant triple talaq illegal.
“Considering the amount of work and development that Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has done in the last five years, I am sure we will have a record-breaking victory," Union minister for road transport and highways, Nitin Gadkari, said after casting his vote.
“For all the diversion that the BJP and Modi attempted in the name of Article 370 and America-China, we expect the people to vote on the issues of joblessness, economic slow down, factory shutdown, and agrarian crisis in Maharashtra and Haryana. These opinion polls certainly do not reflect ground realities. Wait for the counting day. The results will be opposite of what the exit polls are saying," said Pranav Jha, secretary in-charge of the communications department of the Congress.