That Maharashtra and Haryana were ripe for a change of government was clearly a foregone conclusion. Both dispensations were seriously discredited and had lost all legitimacy in general public perception. Sure of the ouster of the Congress-led governments in both states, the BJP took the risk of going it alone in a bid to maximise its gains. With the BJP now all set to head the state governments in these two states for the first time, the calculated risk, it must be said, has been amply rewarded. But once again the BJP’s gains got disproportionately amplified because of the inherent imbalance of the first-past-the-post electoral system – its vote share is still less than 30% in Maharashtra and about 33% in Haryana.
Significantly enough, the BJP’s gains came at the cost of not just the Congress but also major regional players like the NCP and MNS in Maharashtra and INLD and Haryana Janhit Congress in Haryana. Despite managing to marginally increase its own tally in the state and effectively decimate the MNS, even the Shiv Sena found itself overshadowed by the BJP in virtually every region of Maharashtra, including the traditional Sena stronghold of Mumbai. The BJP’s real gain in Maharashtra lies in its success in reversing the terms of its ties with the Sena – in a revived post-poll alliance, the Sena will now be the junior partner with much less negotiating power vis a vis a BJP which now has a presence twice as big as that of the Sena in the Assembly. The unsolicited and unconditional support offered by the NCP to the BJP has further weakened the Sena’s bargaining capacity.
The Maharashtra election campaign had witnessed an interesting propaganda war among the BJP, Shiv Sena, Congress, NCP and MNS. The Congress sought to attribute the corruption and mess in Maharashtra primarily to the NCP, the BJP too targeted the NCP as the ‘Naturally Corrupt Party’. The NCP hit back at the BJP for its authoritarian design, likening Modi to Hitler. The Shiv Sena and MNS, having all along directed the firepower of their ‘Maratha pride’ against the job-seeking youth and working people from North India, suddenly found themselves pitted against the growing ambition and influence of Gujarati capitalists. Elections over, the NCP has been the first to offer support to the BJP – thereby simultaneously exposing the ‘anti-communal’ posturing of the NCP and the ‘anti-corruption’ rhetoric of the BJP. Whichever way the government is now configured in the state, the post-poll realignment will be no less revealing than the pre-poll break-up.
The remarkable success of the BJP in Maharashtra and Haryana elections will reinforce the grip of the Modi-Shah duo over the government and the party and embolden the BJP to attempt more vigorous forays not only in states like Jharkhand and Bihar where the BJP has shared power in the past but also beyond the Hindi belt, whether in West Bengal and Assam or in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, where the BJP is yet to secure any major presence. And on the plane of policies and legislations, the government will now surely try to bulldoze every opposition and go the whole hog to enforce its pro-corporate agenda in every sphere. The people too will have to be prepared to confront the BJP-led corporate-communal offensive and defend their livelihood and liberties with all their might.
For long, bourgeois opposition politics in India had evolved and revolved around the axis of anti-Congressism. Following the rise of the BJP as a powerful national contender since the 1990s attempts were made to carve out an anti-Congress anti-BJP opposition space. Now with the BJP emerging as the pre-eminent party of the ruling classes across the country, the opposition logic may well shift to anti-BJPism. But with the Congress still in a state of free fall and regional parties having no ideological-political inhibition to do business with a resurgent BJP, it is not easy for anti-BJPism to evolve as a uniting formula for a fragmented opposition.
In any case, the narrow frames of anti-Congressism or anti-BJPism can never be suitable for the Left’s agenda of radical social transformation, comprehensive democracy and alternative politics of the non-ruling non-exploiting classes. The unprecedented rise of the BJP signals an ideological consolidation and resurgence of the rightwing in Indian politics, and the Left must get ready to combat it by re-emerging as the ideological pivot of a bold and broad popular opposition to the BJP’s disastrous model of pro-corporate economics, authoritarian governance, majoritarian nationalism and retrograde-patriarchal social agenda.