The results of the Maharashtra and Haryana assembly elections have set the stage for what could turn out to be a turning point in the country’s politics with the BJP poised to take on a host of regional parties in state elections in the next one-and-a-half years.
With BJP president Amit Shah’s gamble of going it alone paying off in the latest assembly elections, the party is likely to follow the template in future elections starting with Jammu and Kashmir and Jharkhand in the next few weeks and Bihar next year. While the BJP allied with regional parties in the past, it has never been coy about its preference for bipolar polity.
After it vanquished the Congress in the parliamentary election and now its traditional strongholds of Haryana and Maharashtra, the BJP will be inclined to ride on the continuing Narendra Modi wave to end the dominance of regional players. The BJP had never contested more than 26 seats in Haryana and more than 119 in Maharashtra; the party’s tally in these two states post-results leaves no ambiguity about the success of Shah’s bold, if risky, strategy.
According to party sources, if there has to be an alliance--like the one with the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) of Ramvilas Paswan and the Rashtriya Lok Samata party (RLSP) of Upendra Kushwaha in Bihar--the BJP will not be a junior party in it.
Most immediately, the BJP’s massive win may mean shrinking bargaining space for JVM(P) leader Babulal Marandi in Jharkhand, who had rejected the BJP’s offer of a merger and has been playing hardball in back channel talks for an alliance.
Further down the road, regional parties are also likely to face the heat in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry which are set to go to the polls early in 2016.
In Assam, the BJP will be inclined to replace its erstwhile ally AGP to mount a challenge to the ruling Congress. Similarly, given the visible surge in its support base in West Bengal in the Lok Sabha election, the party will be looking to elbow out the Left and the Congress to emerge as the principal challenger to the ruling Trinamool Congress.
The success of the go-it-alone policy in Haryana and Maharashtra is also likely to have a bearing on political equations in Punjab where coalition partner BJP is learnt to be uneasy about people’s growing disillusionment with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).