It was called a vote for Vikas when the BJP emerged trumps with 282 seats on its own in the Lok Sabha polls and with the alliance partners commanded an unquestioned majority in Parliament. Its performance in UP was unexpectedly stupendous despite only 40 p.c. plus vote share because the anti-BJP vote got hopelessly split among the opposition and added up to nothing. The logical conclusion one was forced to draw from the Lok Sabha outcome was that the majority of the voters were tired of the stereotyped tirade against divisive politics and wanted change. That too, change in the name of development. In the process they unequivocally put it to the party, read the BJP, with a rider “ yes, we want benefits of development to reach all, so giving you a chance to live up to your talk.”
Essentially from then on the Modi government does not want to put a foot wrong, with media’s critical glare on it. This despite the fact that there is no visible sign of policy departure though sound moves were made such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, (a move designed as a national pledge to keep clean to which even the opponents had no credible argument against) , bank accounts for the poor, digital India, more say for states in development etc. Modi’s foreign trysts, with the Chinese leader Xi Jin Ping at home and Barack Obama in US, have all been designed to bring huge foreign investment in key infrastructure projects in which the States will have equal say. By far Japan has promised a huge flow of investment in infrastructure projects, including the clean Ganga exercise. It has to be seen whether these projects will move forward irrespective of the party in power in the States, and not get bogged down by politics.
Whatever reservations the political parties have their vote share in the coming Assembly polls would get influenced by what the Central government does and of course the Modi factor. Strangely Vikas is the operative word for the BJP in Maharashtra and Haryana but the other parties know the decisive role local factors played in shaping the outcome. Politics of power sharing have led to breaking of alliances vis-à-vis BJP- Sena, NCP-Cong in Maharashtra and the four-cornered contest has left even pollsters wondering about the results. There is talk of BJP having an edge in view of the undoubted anti-incumbency sentiment but Shiv Sena, NCP and the Congress have their vote banks intact leaving room for a fractured mandate.
Vidharbha, with 62 seats, could make a major dent in BJP’s favour because of the widespread discontent among the voters about the raw deal in the last two decades. Though its voters have realized that the promise of statehood is an opportunistic plank they would prefer a party that could make it a reality. The high rate of farmers’ suicides in Maharashtra, especially Vidharbha, has grabbed headlines drumming home the fallout of skewed development which incidentally leads to the clamour for separate states. It has come as a godsend for the BJP now though smaller states themselves do not lead to social justice. For it a victory in Maharashtra would be a “first” though it had an equal hand in skewed development.
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for his part in the campaign rallies, avoided ruffling feathers by attacking the Shiv Sena basing his political calculations on the evident disenchantment among the electorate with the NCP-Congress and the possible post-poll understanding with the Sena. The BJP is attempting to harvest on the anti-incumbency to consolidate its political space and also widen it. Will it lead to a desperately weakened Opposition? It is difficult to foresee. But be it Maharashtra or Haryana it is a no-holds barred exercise but how will it translate in political terminology has its share of question marks. Those questions may crop up sooner or later.