indica News Bureau-
The latest round of Assembly elections in India has delivered a sting to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with its seemingly inexorable vote-gathering machine slowing down perceptibly despite an Opposition weakened by desertions and infighting.
While the BJP retained power in the western Indian state of Maharashtra in alliance with the Shiv Sena, it failed to get to the halfway mark in the northern state of Haryana. In both states, the party led by Union Home Minister Amit Shah had boasted of winning three-quarters of the seats on offer.
Shah and Modi had run a high-pitched ultra-nationalist campaign, ignoring regional issues and making the annulment of Jammu & Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and an uncompromising stance against Pakistan its bedrock.
Shah also tried to drum support for a countrywide exercise to update the National Register of Citizenship (NRC). Such an exercise has only been carried out in Assam so far and it has left as many as 1.9 million people stateless.
However, the electorate appears to have ignored the chest-thumping by the BJP and focused more on bread-and-butter issues, what with the economy in a tailspin and job losses all round.
The Haryana Assembly verdict Thursday threw up a hung House, with no party reaching the halfway mark; in Maharashtra, the BJP-Shiv Sena combine secured a comfortable majority to retain power.
In Haryana, the BJP emerged as the single largest party winning 40 seats, six short of a majority in a House of 90 members. In 2014, the party had won 47 seats and was aiming for 75 this time.
The Congress, on the other hand, made significant progress from the last Assembly elections, winning 31 seats. It had got 15 in the 2014 polls.
The BJP got 36.49% votes while the Congress bagged 28.08%.
The nearly year-old Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), offshoot of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), won in 10 constituencies, making it a possible kingmaker along with seven Independents.
The INLD, which ruled the state four times, managed just one seat. The party, which last ruled the state from 2000 to 2004, had stood second with 19 seats in 2014 and was the main Opposition party in the outgoing House.
The JJP was formed in December last year after Dushyant Chautala, grandson of four-time Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala, split from the INLD following a bitter fight in the family.
The results were a shock for the saffron party, particularly since it had won all 10 seats in the state in the Lok Sabha election held just five months ago.
In Maharashtra, where 288 seats were at stake, the BJP won 105 while the Shiv Sena, won 56, taking their combined tally to 161.
From the Opposition camp, the Congress won 44 seats while its alliance partner, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), ended up with 54.
Here, too, the BJP’s tally fell by 17 seats compared to its performance in 2014, when it contested alone and won 122 seats. The Shiv Sena had 63 seats last time.
The NCP improved its performance significantly. It had got 41 seats in the last elections, when the Congress had got 42. Both Congress parties had also contested the previous election on their own. This time the parties had formed a broader alliance with several smaller groups, ending up with a total tally of 102 seats.