Small victory margin in Gujarat elections may spell big trouble for BJP in Maharashtra
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Small victory margin in Gujarat elections may spell big trouble for BJP in Maharashtra

CM Devendra Fadnavis, who is already battling the Shiv Sena and agrarian crisis, may have to walk a tightrope ahead of 2019 polls

mumbai Updated: Dec 19, 2017 10:13 IST
Ketaki Ghoge
Ketaki Ghoge
Hindustan Times
Gujarat polls,Mumbai,Maharashtra
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis celebrates BJP’s victory in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh with other party members outside Vidhan Bhavan in Nagpur on Monday. (Sunny Shende)

The BJP’s win in Gujarat, its lowest victory margin in 22 years, is likely to have an impact on the political dynamics in Maharashtra. The victory comes with a message for the chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who is battling an agrarian crisis in his backyard as well as a troublesome ally.

The BJP is said to have conceded ground to Congress largely in rural constituencies, with agrarian crisis in Saurashtra being flagged off as one of the main motivators.

While the BJP managed to retain PM Narendra Modi’s home state for the sixth consecutive term, the performance of the main opposition party, the Congress, is being seen by political opponents as a sign that things are up for grabs in 2019 polls. The state Congress, whose numbers had dwindled to just 42 in the 2014 assembly polls can also take heart from its party’s performance in the neighbouring state.

In the short run, the CM will have to walk a tightrope with ally Shiv Sena as the party’s 63 legislators are crucial to maintaining majority in the 288-member house. The Sena is likely to sharpen its attack on the BJP. It could also walk out of his government next year as indicated by Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray. He again took to twitter post results to take a veiled dig at BJP’s “arrogance”.

READ: Gujarat results show people are not happy with BJP: Shiv Sena

There are also indications that NCP will cosy up with its natural ally Congress ahead of the 2019 polls. “If Sena walks out of the Fadnavis government next year, the BJP will spend crucial time ensuring its government stays stable instead of focusing on its performance. Also, if Sena decides to go solo in next polls, BJP stands to lose. Similarly, a lot will depend on how Congress and NCP mobilise and consolidate their rural base in the next two years and if they align together,’’ said political analyst Surendra Jondhale.

Jondhale added that a big hurdle in a renewed Congress-NCP would be communication between Pawar and Congress’ new leadership led by Rahul Gandhi.

While NCP chief Sharad Pawar maintained silence on the Gujarat results, his nephew and former deputy CM Ajit Pawar tweeted that the verdict indicated that those who were claiming that only they are right have been proven wrong. Speaking to reporters later, he also praised the way Rahul ran the Gujarat poll campaign with dignity.

Political observers said Fadnavis needs to re-evaluate his party’s relationship with its rural mandate to avoid a similar pitfall. In its last three years, the Fadnavis-led government has been targeted most over ongoing agrarian distress. The implementation of the loan waiver has also left the government open to criticism. “It is true that there is agrarian distress in Maharashtra, which could prove to be problematic for us in the near future. But, while Gujarat saw the rise of young home grown leaders, there is no such new leadership in the state. The credibility of Congress and NCP remains a question. Also, our urban support base is strong,’’ said a senior BJP leader.

First Published: Dec 19, 2017 10:11 IST