The Narendra Modi magic is alive. And winning. Diwali came four days early to the Bharatiya Janata Party as it became Big Brother in Maharashtra and Biggest Brother in Haryana when the results of the October 15 Assembly elections in both states were declared on Sunday.
With 47 of Haryana's 90 Assembly seats in the BJP kitty and 122 of Maharashtra's 288, the party is poised to form governments in both states.
Both victories were superlative, and both were the result of an essentially solo strategy (see accompanying result charts above and inside).
In Maharashtra, the BJP stepped out of the Shiv Sena's shadow to emerge as the new Big Brother of the political right. The BJP's splendid showing on Sunday was the first time in almost a quarter of a century that any one party has won more than 100 seats; a century on debut. In Haryana, the BJP won a clear majority in a multi-cornered contest that saw several giants fall by the wayside.
For the Congress, Sunday was a repeat of its May misery as the Grand Old Party slipped to third place in both states, beaten to the respectability of second spot by the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and the Om Prakash Chautala-led Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) in Haryana. Had the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) won just one more than its 41 seats, the Congress would have had to suffer the ignominy of sharing fourth spot in Maharashtra.
A big surprise in the election was the near complete wipeout of Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), predicted by many to be the next kingmaker. The MNS won just one seat. In contrast, the Hyderabad-based Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) opened its Maharashtra account with two Assembly seats.
'MODI UNDISPUTED LEADER'
BJP president Amit Shah said his party's victory in Maharashtra and Haryana proves beyond doubt that people in India consider Prime Minister Narendra Modi their undisputed leader. "For those who thought the Modi wave is over, this is proof that it's still a tsunami that can crush all competition," said Shah, considered the main architect of the BJP's winning electoral strategy. Prime Minister Modi had campaigned aggressively in Maharashtra and Haryana, with the BJP contesting alone in these states for the first time. Modi called the results "historic" and said it was "a matter of immense happiness and pride" for the BJP.
The Shiv Sena-BJP relationship continued to make news. Even as the NCP came out of its closet to declare it would support the BJP-22 seats short of a majority in the House given the one-seat support of the Republican Party of India-from outside, Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray stayed defiant, saying: "I am sitting at my home peacefully, if somebody thinks our support is needed, they can approach us. Somebody from that side (BJP) should come to us with a proposal. How can I go about offering my support?" Thackeray followed up his statement with congratulatory calls to Modi and Shah.
NCP leader Praful Patel had earlier told reporters his party "has decided to extend support to the proposed government of BJP in Maharashtra... There is no option but to see that the largest party forms a stable government. Also, the BJP is ruling in the Centre and it will benefit the state."
Shah remained non-committal amid the aftermath of the political quake triggered by Patel's declaration. Shah said the party's top decision-making body will soon take a call. Refusing to respond to questions on whether his party was debating an alliance with the NCP, Shah said: "You only saw half of what Patel said.
He said the verdict is for the BJP and so we offer unconditional support. NCP has offered to extend outside support-an alliance would mean being in the government." Referring to the Shiv Sena, he said, "The results have proved who was correct... We won more seats than we were being offered." If that wasn't enough chastisement for the Sena, he added: "We never tried to break the alliance, nor were we responsible for the breakup."
The BJP is in a position to bargain with any party to form the government, but sources said that Sangh Parivar wants the party to team up again with the Shiv Sena. BJP patriarch LK Advani also advised the party to go with the Sena. BJP leaders in Maharashtra have publicly opposed any tie-up with the NCP which co-governed the state for 15 years with the Congress.
In Haryana, the Congress went down to just 15 seats from its 40 of 2009. The INLD, caught in a door-die battle, found that the sympathy factor it had tried to evoke did not work. The party was hoping to do well after it alleged that 79-year-old Chautala, who is in Tihar jail undergoing a 10-year sentence in teachers recruitment scandal, had been victimised.
Chautala, who criss-crossed the state after getting bail on health grounds, could not raise the sagging morale of the outfit which ended with 19 seats.
As the last results trickled in, the BJP Parliamentary Board met on Sunday evening in the Capital. The board decided to send two observers each to Maharashtra and Haryana to decide on who are to be anointed chief ministers.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP spokesperson JP Nadda will go as observers to Maharashtra, and Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu and BJP vice-president Dinesh Sharma will be sent to Haryana.
Party sources said that the board had also decided that the chief minister in Haryana will only be from the state and no outsider from Delhi will be sent for the top post. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari was reported to have been offered the chief minister's post in Maharashtra but he is said to have refused.
Victory in both states is significant as they have been Congress bastions for long. With this followup of his Lok Sabha triumph, Modi has now unquestionably emerged as the tallest BJP leader. For the Capital, where a political deadlock has been in place all this year, fresh polls are a near-certainty as the BJP is likely to move towards consolidating its newest gains.
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