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BJP election victory threatens rival state govts

LiveMint logoLiveMint 18-05-2014 Anuja

New Delhi: Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) juggernaut, which has secured the biggest victory in national elections in three decades, continued to surge unabated, with its political fallout likely to unsettle governments in Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar resigned on Saturday, accepting moral responsibility of his party’s—Janata Dal (United), or JD(U)—rout in the Lok Sabha elections in the state, winning only two of the 40 parliamentary seats.

The JD(U) legislative party on Sunday deferred a decision to accept Kumar’s resignation to Monday, giving him a chance to reconsider his stand.

Some say Kumar has resigned as his party legislators were likely to defect. However, Lalu Prasad-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), which shares a common history, may support JD(U) to save the government in case of a defection by JD(U) lawmakers.

While JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav, who lost the Madhepura seat to RJD’s Pappu Yadav, indicated a possible alliance with its long-time rival, two RJD leaders, who requested anonymity, confirmed the development.

“If anybody tries to topple the Nitish government, we will not let that happen. Laluji has said that it is time and circumstances have enhanced the opportunity to stop the split of secular votes,” an RJD leader said, requesting anonymity, without ruling out a possibility of long-term alliance with the JD(U). “If there is a need to support Nitish in the assembly, we are ready to do that. You may see both the parties supporting each other even before the assembly polls in Bihar.”

“Both the parties are now thinking on similar lines,” the second RJD leader said, also declining to be named. RJD leader Pappu Yadav also told the AajTak channel that the party is in favour of an alliance with JD(U). Party leader Lalu Prasad rejected any talk about extending support to JD(U) but added he was observing the situation intently.

Earlier on Sunday, three rebel RJD MLAs resigned from the assembly to extend their support to Kumar, according to a news report by Press Trust of India. An RJD spokesperson said “these MLAs never belonged to us. They were technically not part of the party. They never came back when we paraded the MLAs earlier this year”.

“This is just a political drama to show people that while he (Nitish Kumar) has put in his papers on moral grounds, his party members and MLAs are not letting him go,” said Sachidanand Sharma, head of the political science department at Patna University. “The only political benefit the chief minister is trying to reap out of this is that he continues to remain in the government. But a decisive mandate in the elections shows the public is very aware now and they would see through such gimmicks.”

Experts also said BJP’s victory in Lok Sabha elections will also have a substantial impact in Maharashtra, Haryana and Delhi—states that may see assembly polls later this year.

The Jharkhand government, led by the chief minister Hemant Soren’s Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) with just 18 members in an 82-member state assembly, is surviving with the help of the Congress, which has 13 members in the mineral-rich state, and independents.

BJP has 18 members in the assembly and with it winning 12 of 14 Lok Sabha seats in the state, the fragile government will be further strained. Assembly elections are due by end of this year.

Similarly, in the 71-seat Uttarakhand assembly, the Congress has a narrow majority with 33 members. BJP and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have 30 and three seats, respectively. Again, in a clean sweep, the BJP won all the five Lok Sabha seats in the state with a 55.3% vote share.

In Bihar, the numbers tell it all. The BJP, which won 22 seats on its own, had a vote share of 29.4%. In comparison, Lalu Prasad’s RJD got 20.1% of the votes and secured four seats.

While JD(U)’s vote share of 15.8% was better than Congress’s 8.4% share, the two parties ended up winning two seats each.

In the 243-seat Bihar assembly, JD(U) has 115 seats, followed by BJP with a tally of 91. RJD has 22 seats, with Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and the Congress being fringe players with three and four seats, respectively. Bihar is slated to go to polls by the end of next year.

The voting pattern in the state polls may, however, deviate from how voters have chosen their candidates in the just-concluded general elections, say analysts.

“The verdict is for the central government and there is no reason to assume that people would vote the same way for government in their regions,” said Gurpreet Mahajan, a professor of political science at Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). “Many surveys and studies have shown that people vote differently depending on whether they are choosing the Union government or the state government.”

Of the 814.6 million people registered to vote in 16th general election, an estimated 100 million were first-time voters. The record 66.4% poll turnout helped BJP win 282 of the 543 parliamentary seats, handing the party a majority on its own.

“Moreover, in a federal polity, it is good for democracy to have different governments in the state and in the Centre. This was the reason why elections to the central and state government, were de-linked and that was how the polity challenged the Congress dominance in earlier days,” said Mahajan.

To reverse its declining fortunes, the Congress has to work hard, admits Randeep Singh Surjewala, a party spokesperson and a minister in the Haryana government. “The party has to pull up its socks and work together. We have to put our ears close to the ground. In states like Haryana and Maharashtra, the government has to implement pro-people policies, it has to be translated into work and communicated effectively,” Surjewala said.

“We have to be battle ready. These two governments have done stellar work and that was the reason that they were re-elected repeatedly. People vote in the state elections on the basis of state government’s performance and how it has addressed the aspirations and delivered.”

Out of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra, BJP with a 27.3% vote share has won 23 seats while its ally Shiv Sena won 18 seats with a 20.6% vote share. While Congress with a 18.1% vote share won just two seats, its ally Nationalist Congress Party with 16% of votes got four seats.

In Haryana, BJP with a 34.7% vote share got seven of the 10 Lok Sabha seats . The Congress (22.9% vote share) and INLD (24.4%) secured one and two seats respectively. In the 90-seat Haryana assembly, Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress has 40 members followed by INLD’s 31. While BJP has four members in the assembly, this is set to change when the state goes to polls later this year—if Lok Sabha polls are any indication.

Delhi is currently under president’s rule after the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Arvind Kejriwal resigned as chief minister earlier this year. In the 70-member Delhi assembly, BJP has 31 representatives followed by AAP’s 27 and Congress’s eight. BJP won all the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi with a 46.4% vote share. AAP on Sunday denied speculation that it is keen on forming a government in Delhi again, based on the December polls.

Liz Mathew and Kirthi V. Rao contributed to the story.

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