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Monday, Nov 18, 2019

Maharashtra, Haryana set for people’s verdict today, counting begins

Voting for the 288-seat assembly in Maharashtra and 90-member Haryana assembly took place on October 21 -- the first electoral test for the BJP since the April-May general elections -- and most exit polls predicted that the ruling party would perform better in both states than it did in 2014.

assembly-elections Updated: Oct 24, 2019 08:05 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Mumbai/Chandigarh
Votes will also be counted in the bye-elections to 51 assembly seats in 16 states and one Union territory and two Lok Sabha seats --- Samastipur in Bihar and Satara in Maharashtra.
Votes will also be counted in the bye-elections to 51 assembly seats in 16 states and one Union territory and two Lok Sabha seats --- Samastipur in Bihar and Satara in Maharashtra. (PTI FILE)
         

Counting of votes from the October 21 elections to the Maharashtra and Haryana assemblies and the declaration of results on Thursday will show whether the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has reinforced its pole position in Indian politics after winning a bigger majority in the Lok Sabha elections or if the Congress-led opposition has been able to fight back.

Votes will also be counted in the bye-elections to 51 assembly seats in 16 states and one Union territory and two Lok Sabha seats --- Samastipur in Bihar and Satara in Maharashtra.

Voting for the 288-seat assembly in Maharashtra and 90-member Haryana assembly took place on October 21 -- the first electoral test for the BJP since the April-May general elections -- and most exit polls predicted that the ruling party would perform better in both states than it did in 2014.

Exit polls in Maharashtra predicted that the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena alliance would get between 166 and 244 seats, with the Congress-led opposition getting 48 to 90 seats. In 2014, the BJP won 122 seats and Shiv Sena 63 while the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) won 42 and 41 seats, respectively.

In Haryana, most exit polls said BJP will get anywhere between 55 and 75 seats, with the Congress security 15-20. The only exception was the India Today-Axis exit poll that predicted a close fight between the BJP and the Congress in Haryana with the ruling party having a slight edge.

The BJP got 46 seats in the 90 member house and the opposition Congress 15 and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) 20 seatsin 2014. Many of the INLD legislators joined the BJP before elections and some were fielded by the splinter party, Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), led by Dushyant Chautala.

A poor performance n the two states after the drubbing it received in the Lok Sabha elections five months ago could further demoralise Congress cadre across the country. The Congress machinery was almost missing on the ground in Maharashtra, with the grand old party playing second fiddle to the NCP, which too has been hit by desertions. NCP chief Sharad Pawar, 78, led from the front, crisscrossing Maharashtra holding rallies and attacking the BJP-Shiv Sena combine.

Infighting may cost the Congress dear in Haryana where barely a few weeks ahead of the election, the party leadership replaced state unit chief Ashok Tanwar with Kumari Selja and handed over the election management to former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

A good show in these two states will not only recharge Congress workers but also lend momentum to the party’s revival process.

A victory for BJP will mean electoral support for the Centre’s nullification of Article 370 and Article 35-A that gave Jammu and Kashmir special status and reserved some privileges, such as government jobs and property ownership, for people deemed permanent citizens of the sate. It will also prove that Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to be the biggest vote catcher despite a slowdown in economic growth and an agrarian crisis in some parts of the two states.

A win in Maharasthra and Haryana would be a big morale booster before assembly elections in Jharkhand and Delhi due in December-January and would help improve the party’s tally in the Rajya Sabha, where the opposition is in a majority.

Both states recorded voter turnouts smaller than in 2014 showing, which experts said was unusual considering a high-octane campaign by the BJP. In Maharashtra, 61.3% of voters cast their votes, two percentage points less than in 2014. In Haryana, the voting percentage of 68.31%, eight percentage points less than in 2014, was the lowest in the past 30 years.

The ruling and the opposition parties in the two states expressed confidence that they would do well.

BNP’s Maharashtra unit chief Chandrakant Patil said the ruling combine will bag more than 240 seats. Congress state president Balasaheb Thorat expressed confidence that the party would win more than 100 seats. “We are doing well in some regions and will cross the mark of 100 seats,” he said.

In Haryana, both chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar and former CM and Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda expressed confidencethat their parties would win. “There are no worries,” Khattar said. Hooda said: “The Congress is winning.”

Election officers said that the first trends would be available by 11 a.m. and that final results will start coming in from 3 p.m. Dilip Shinde, additional chief electoral officer, Maharashtra, said, “We are all set for the counting of the votes.” Haryana’s chief electoral officer Inderjeet, who uses only one name, said a counting centre has been set up in each assembly segment and adequate security deployed.