Popular perception among all media commentators is that the BJP gamble to go it alone in the recent assembly elections has paid of in a big way. In Haryana certainly by breaking off from the Janhit Party the BJP made spectacular gains. Unlike the late Bhajan Lal the party failed to attract the entire non-Jat vote which shifted to the BJP. The state’s proximity to Delhi and close interaction among Punjabis of both states did the rest. But did the BJP gamble pay off in Maharashtra? Consider what might have happened and what did happen.
The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance would have clocked larger number of seats than the total achieved by both parties singly. Even in the alliance, having lesser candidates, it is entirely possible that BJP would have emerged with a larger tally given Mr. Modi’s campaign. The alliance government would have been stable and strong. Instead, what has been achieved? Days have passed since the results and the government has not yet been formed. According to Home Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh government formation will be only after Diwali. Media analysts attribute this to the BJP’s strategy to keep potential allies, Shiv Sena and NCP, in suspense. More likely the delay is due to division within the BJP leadership itself. The options before the party are confusing.
Shiv Sena is playing hard to get while the NCP has extended unconditional outside support. If there is alliance with Shiv Sena it will be between two estranged allies nursing bitter memories of campaign invective. If the government is formed on strength of NCP support it will not only be fragile. The public would closely watch how the pending corruption file against an NCP leader lying with the Governor would be dealt with. If corruption charges are pursued the NCP support could be withdrawn. If the charges are glossed over the BJP would have egg all over its face. This then is an unattractive option.
That is why the BJP is thinking of roping in small parties and independent MLAs and form a minority government banking on the reluctance of any party to topple the government. What kind of governance might be expected from such a shaky and fragile arrangement? There is a further complication. There are several contenders for the Chief Minister’s post within the BJP. Already contradictory views have been expressed by the Prime Minister and BJP leaders about dividing the state to create a separate Vidharbha. The sentiment for a new Vidharbha state is very strong and the largest proportion of MLAs has been elected from that region. The danger of factionalism arising from the selection of the next Chief Minister cannot be dismissed.
Taking all these factors into account can it be said that the BJP gamble to go it alone has really paid off in Maharashtra? A final decision must await formation of the new government.