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BJP loses, but has Cong won?

india Updated: Oct 23, 2009 00:00 IST
Vinod Sharma
Vinod Sharma
Hindustan Times
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Barring the cakewalk in Arunachal Pradesh, the Congress has little reason to rejoice over its showing in the October 13 assembly elections, the results of which were declared on Thursday.

A divided Opposition helped it buck anti-incumbency in Maharashtra. But in Haryana, it seemed to have bucked defeat despite its number of seats coming down by 27.

The Congress’s tally of 40 in the 90-member Haryana assembly is way below the 67 it held in the previous House.

On the final count, it was three less than the aggregate score of Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), Bhajan Lal’s Haryana Janhit Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which went alone this time. Politically, the INLD’s claim of the combined Opposition having won 50:40 didn’t look exaggerated.

Imagine the Congress’s plight had the Opposition not been divided before the elections. “It would have been a rout,” admitted a leader who lost his assembly seat. The crowded race, made five-cornered by the Bahujan Samaj Party, was a “barely disguised blessing”, he said.

Yes, but only a part blessing. If Bhupinder Singh Hooda continues as chief minister, he’d lack the aura of a clear winner.
He ceded so much ground that Chautala, his principal opponent, more than tripled his previous tally of nine.
Even Bhajan Lal and the BJP registered gains in the hung assembly.

It remains to be seen whether the Congress will make a pitch for power with the support of Independents or by patching up with party renegade Bhajan Lal? As the single-largest entity, it has the first right to invitation by the governor -- a factor that can tilt the balance when the numbers don’t seem to add up.

For the present, it is Bhajan Lal’s and the independently elected legislators’ movement of fame and opportunity.

But no such arithmetic or calisthenics are needed in Maharashtra, where the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (Congress-NCP) combine is set for a third consecutive term. And for that, it has to thank the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s (MNS’s) Raj Thackeray, who crippled the Sena-BJP challenge in a neat repeat of the Lok Sabha polls. “We gained from the
division of the anti-incumbency vote between the MNS, the Republican Left Democratic Front and the BJP-Shiv
Sena,” a top Congress functionary said.

The losing side blamed the MNS for ensuring the Congress-NCP victory.

But Shrish Parkar, a close aide of Raj Thackeray, justified his leader’s spoiler tactics as an investment for the future.
“What division of votes,” he asked. “We are here to do politics. We aren’t the Shiv Sena’s bonded labour.”

A double defeat this for Raj’s cousin Uddhav Thackeray?