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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019

The significance of the vote | HT editorial

Tomorrow’s elections will impact governance, politics, society

editorials Updated: Oct 20, 2019 20:27 IST

Hindustan Times
The BJP has constructed a coalition of non-dominant castes in both states (non-Jat in Haryana, non-Maratha in Maharashtra)
The BJP has constructed a coalition of non-dominant castes in both states (non-Jat in Haryana, non-Maratha in Maharashtra)(PTI)

Maharashtra and Haryana vote tomorrow to elect representatives for their state assemblies. The poll will determine the nature of the next government in both the states. Given the increasing power of state governments in the day-to-day lives of citizens, the outcome will have clear governance implications for the growth, development and human index trajectory of people living in both states. Beyond that, it will be a reflection of the state of politics and social churn in India today.

First, politics. Both states are ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Do remember that neither Maharashtra nor Haryana was a stronghold of the party before 2014. But Devendra Fadnavis in Mumbai and Manohar Lal Khattar in Chandigarh — under the close supervision of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah in Delhi — have made the party the dominant player in both states. This has happened due to a combination of national factors (Mr Modi’s appeal; the discourse on nationalism; and the effectiveness of the central government’s welfare schemes) and state-level factors (the perception of integrity of both CMs and sharper delivery of services). But it has also happened because of the collapse of the Opposition in both states. In Haryana, the Congress has been embroiled in an internal battle, and the leading regional formation, led by Om Prakash Chautala, has fragmented. In Maharashtra, too, the Congress’ ability to put up a strong fight is near absent even though the Nationalist Congress Party, suffering from debilitating desertions, is battling it out more vigorously.

But if the elections will give a sense of the dynamic in both the ruling and Opposition parties, it is also significant because of the social churn it will reflect. The BJP has constructed a coalition of non-dominant castes in both states (non-Jat in Haryana, non-Maratha in Maharashtra). In both, it is now seeking to make inroads into these traditionally dominant castes. Will it succeed? If it does, the BJP will indeed end up becoming a truly inclusive Hindu party across caste groups in both states. At the same time, a worrying trend in Indian politics — of the diminishing representation of Muslims — looks set to continue. This has social implications because access to power to diverse groups has kept up their faith in democratic procedures and helped maintain inter-community harmony. But as citizens vote today, it is once again a reminder that India’s electoral democracy is robust, enabling people to exercise their fundamental right in choosing who governs them.