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Tuesday, Nov 12, 2019

Assembly elections polling 2019: BJP seeks a second term as Haryana, Maharashtra vote today

Both the states are ruled by the BJP, in an alliance with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and on its own in Haryana.

assembly-elections Updated: Oct 21, 2019 09:38 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The fate of 4406 candidates - 1169 in Haryana and 3237 in Maharashtra - will be sealed in electronic voting machines (EVMs) by voters in this assembly elections.
The fate of 4406 candidates - 1169 in Haryana and 3237 in Maharashtra - will be sealed in electronic voting machines (EVMs) by voters in this assembly elections.(Kunal Patil/ HT Photo)

Millions of voters queued up in Maharashtra and Haryana on Monday to choose new state assemblies as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) looks to grab a second term in both the states after a massive win at the Centre in May.

Both the states are ruled by the BJP, in an alliance with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and on its own in Haryana.

The fate of 4406 candidates - 1169 in Haryana and 3237 in Maharashtra - will be sealed in electronic voting machines (EVMs) by voters in this assembly elections.

In Maharashtra, there are 288 assembly seats of which 29 are reserved for Scheduled Castes and 25 for Scheduled Tribes. There are 90 assembly constituencies of which 17 are reserved for the Scheduled Castes in Haryana.

There are a 1,81,91,228 voters in Haryana and 8,94,46,211 voters in Maharashtra. Both states have a lakh service voters each.

The number of polling stations in Haryana has been increased from 16,244 five years ago to 19,425 in 2019. In Maharashtra, the number has been increased from 90,403 to 95,473.

As polling began for the assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people, especially the young, to come out and vote in large numbers.

By-polls are also being held in as many as 51 assembly seats and two Lok Sabha constituencies spread across 17 states and one Union Territory on Monday.

“Elections are taking place for Haryana and Maharashtra assemblies. There are also by-polls taking place in various parts of India. I urge voters in these states and seats to turnout in record numbers and enrich the festival of democracy. I hope youngsters vote in large numbers,” the Prime Minister tweeted in the morning.

Easy ride for BJP?

Devendra Fadnavis in 2014 became the first politician from the party to become chief minister in Maharashtra. In Haryana, the BJP formed its first majority government under chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar in the same year.

Fadnavis and Khattar have been the BJP’s public faces in the two states in the elections that also promise to be a test for the Congress after its massive loss in the Lok Sabha polls. The ability of interim president Sonia Gandhi to breathe new life into the grand old party is also on test.

Both national-level factors and specific state-level configurations and issues are expected to influence the outcome of elections in both states and the bypolls.

The BJP goes into the state polls with a four-and-a-half-month track record in its second term in which it has passed the triple talaq bill that criminalises the Muslim practice of instant divorce; and pushed through measures to end the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate it into two states—J&K and Ladakh—among others.

A slowdown that caused economic growth to decelerate to 5% in the quarter ended June, the slowest in more than six years, has been a cause of concern.

The polls will also be a test of whether the BJP and Modi’s popularity remains intact. They will also serve to signal whether the opposition has been able to regroup after its Lok Sabha poll rout.

Fadnavis, welfare schemes

The ruling BJP is contesting on 150 seats and its ally Shiv Sena on 124 constituencies in the 288-member assembly in Maharashtra. The BJP’s alliance partners have fielded 14 candidates on the party’s lotus symbol.

The Sena-BJP alliance currently hold 217 seats and the Congress and the NCP 56 seats.

The BJP emerged as the single-largest force and formed a post-poll partnership with the Sena. The BJP-Sena alliance has, however, often been acrimonious, particularly because the Sena has been reduced to a secondary status.

The two parties fought together in the recent Lok Sabha polls and won 41 of the 48 seats in the state.

The Congress is in alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in the Maharashtra assembly polls. Both the parties are contesting 125 seats each leaving 40 for smaller parties, including the Samajwadi Party, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana of Raju Shetti and the Communist Party of India (CPI).

This is distinct from the last state polls when the four parties had fought separately.

The NDA is banking on Modi’s continued popularity, support for the Centre’s moves in Kashmir, Fadnavis’s emergence as a strong state leader, and both central and state-level welfare schemes, and the fact that besides its own social coalition staying intact, the NDA will also be able to make inroads among the Marathas after it moved to provide reservations in government jobs and college admissions for the community.

The NCP and Congress combine is banking on agrarian distress, drought in pockets of the state, rising unemployment and a perceived divide between the BJP and Sena cadres on the ground to go against the ruling coalition.

Banking on Khattar

The BJP won 47 seats in Haryana in the last assembly polls and has now set a target of more than 75 seats in the state.

The BJP’s victory in the state in 2014 was due to both a high degree of anti-incumbency against the Congress government of Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the appeal of Modi, and the consolidation of non-Jat communities.

Khattar, a low-profile organisational man with a background in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has strengthened his administrative hold, built an image of being clean and honest, focused on welfare delivery. He has also kept non-Jat communities with the party and expanded — to some extent — the BJP’s outreach to the Jats.

Modi’s popularity and support for the move in Kashmir are also expected to help the BJP in Haryana.

The BJP’s primary battle is with the faction-ridden Congress in this northern state as internal squabbles and rebellions have hit the opposition party.

The Congress is also struggling to expand its social base beyond Jats, and for Jat support, it is competing with two other forces—Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), and its breakaway faction, Jannayak Janata Party.

Eleven seats in the Uttar Pradesh assembly are also polling and the outcome will give a sense of the extent of political support the Yogi Adityanath government -- midway through its tenure -- enjoys or whether the Opposition can spring a surprise.

The only Lok Sabha seat going to the polls is Bihar’s Samastipur, which was held by the late Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan.

By-polls are also being held on six seats in Gujarat, five in Bihar, four in Assam and two each in Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

People in Kerala (5 seats), Punjab (4 seats), Sikkim (3 seats), Rajasthan (two seats) and one seat each in Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Puducherry, Meghalaya and Telangana are also voting in the by-elections.

The results will be announced on October 24.