Rajat Sharma

My Opinion

Uddhav will have to bow to most of the demands of NCP, Congress

AKB1411 BJP president and Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday emphatically rejected charges by Congress and NCP leaders that they were denied their “democratic right” to form a government in Maharashtra. The BJP chief said, “the Governor waited for 18 days after notification of the new assembly for some party to come forward and stake claim. Any party or formation of parties could have approached the Governor.”

Shah said, “the invites to explore government formation were sent out by the Governor only when the term of the outgoing assembly ended on November 9, and yet no party could show the requisite numbers to stake claim. Every party asked for extra 1-2 days..Now they have six months. They can approach the Governor any time still now if they have the numbers.”

The BJP chief, for the first time, spoke out on what went wrong with the Shiv Sena. He said, “before the elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and I said several times in public that if our alliance wins, Devendra Fadnavis will be the chief minister. No one objected at that time…Now that some new terms are being raised, our party has some reservations and we will discuss these at an appropriate time. ”

Amit Shah’s clarifications have come at the right time. For the last 18 days, Shiv Sena leaders had gone to town claiming that Shah had promised 50:50 power share, meaning two and a half years each for both alliance partners, and that he had agreed to give the CM post to the Shiv Sena.

On Wednesday, Shah clarified that the conditions laid down by Shiv Sena were not acceptable to his party. By saying that “one should not discuss in public what is spoken inside closed rooms”, the BJP chief has sent out the message that he is not interested in a public debate on this issue.

It is now clear that all the parties in Maharashtra have six months’ time to explore ways and means for government formation. Amit Shah’s remarks on Wednesday also indicated that the BJP has not completely opted out from the race.

As far as Shiv Sena is concerned, its supremo Uddhav Thackeray has made the chief minister’s post an issue of prestige. He will need the support of both the NCP and the Congress. Sharad Pawar and Ahmed Patel are experienced politicians and they know this very well. Shiv Sena may have to accept most of the conditions that will be laid down by both these parties, and this could create problems in future for the saffron party.

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How Uddhav Thackeray overplayed his cards

akb1709With President’s rule in force in Maharashtra, all hectic efforts by Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP in the last one week to form a coalition government have now somewhat abated.

Both the NCP and the Congress have now formed committees to prepare a common minimum programme after talks with the Shiv Sena. As of now, nothing is clear as to whether there will be a rotational chief minister or not, and whether there would be a deputy chief minister. Shiv Sena leaders like Arvind Sawant and Sanjay Raut said on Wednesday that their party would insist on getting the chief minister’s post.

The single largest party, BJP, withdrew from the race on November 9. After a long wait, the Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari then invited the second largest party, Shiv Sena to explore ways for government formation. The Shiv Sena wanted more time, but the Governor declined to give extension. The third largest party, NCP also wanted three days’ time to form a government, but since there was no clear picture emerging, the Governor recommended President’s rule, which was promulgated on November 12.

All the Congress MLAs, who were herded by the party high command to prevent poaching, have now returned to Maharashtra from Jaipur. On Wednesday, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, after meeting Congress leaders in a hotel, claimed that the talks were progressing “in the right direction, and everything is going fine”.

Clearly, this was an attempt by Uddhav Thackeray to shore up the morale of his MLAs, who have been kept at a resort on Madh island. Neither the NCP nor the Congress have yet been committal on the issue of power sharing with the Shiv Sena. NCP supremo Sharad Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar said on Tuesday that “before the New Year begins, I think Maharashtra should get a new government”.

Former CM Narayan Rane, who had left Shiv Sena several years ago to join the Congress, and later left that party to join the BJP, on Tuesday night claimed that the BJP alone form a government. Rane promised to use “sama, dama, danda, bheda” to form a BJP-led government. He should know better, because he had spent most of his political life in the Shiv Sena and the Congress, and knows both the parties inside out.

The Congress, which had sent its panel of senior leaders like Ahmed Patel and Mallikarjun Kharge, to Mumbai to meet Sharad Pawar and other NCP leaders, is still non-committal. Patel and Pawar made it clear on Tuesday that both the parties are yet to decide on forging an alliance with the Shiv Sena. Both the leaders said that the two parties would first decide among themselves and then talks would begin with the Shiv Sena.

Sharad Pawar was emphatic. He said, the ideologies of the Congress are different from those of the Shiv Sena. “If the Shiv Sena needs Congress’ support, then there should be clarity on several issues, a common minimum programme has to be prepared, and this process would take time”.

After the joint press conference by Sharad Pawar and Ahmed Patel, several things are now crystal clear. However, fresh questions arise about Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. He had sought the support of the NCP and the Congress only on Monday, and yet his party had not received any firm assurance from these parties till then.

The first question arises as to on what basis the Shiv Sena had staked its claim before the Governor, in the absence of firm assurances of support? The second question that arises is: why Uddhav Thackeray was in a hurry? Why did he direct his party minister to quit the NDA government at the Centre, even before he had not received support from NCP and Congress?

With the political situation still fluid, all that can be said now is, to quote Shakespeare: “Much ado about nothing.”

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How Uddhav Thackeray was ‘blinded by affection’ for his son

akb2308On Monday when Shiv Sena walked out of the National Democratic Alliance and went to the Maharashtra Governor to stake its claim to form a government, it had no letter of support in hand – neither from the Nationalist Congress Party, nor from the Congress. All that the leaders had were mere words of assurance from leaders of these two parties.

Understandably, the Governor refused to give the Shiv Sena more time to cobble up a coalition, and instead, asked the third largest party, NCP, to explore ways of government formation. The situation is still fluid as the Congress high command continues to dither, grappling with doubts.

I think it was Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s ’putramoha’ (blind affection for son) that did the party in. Uddhav wanted to see his son Aaditya Thackeray anointed as chief minister, by hook or by crook – for two and a half years (with the BJP), or for two and a half months, or even for two and a half days. During the recent assembly polls, Uddhav had gone to town telling voters that it was his father Balasaheb Thackeray’s last wish to see a member of the family become the chief minister of Maharashtra. Gone were the days when Balasaheb used to publicly boast about carrying a ‘remote’ to guide the likes of Manohar Joshi as chief minister.

It was because of this ‘blind affection’ for his son that Uddhav walked out of an alliance with BJP that had continued for 25 consecutive years in Maharashra, from 1989 till 2014, and later during the recent assembly polls. Both the Shiv Sena and BJP had campaigned across Maharashtra during last month’s elections, denouncing both the NCP and Congress.

On Monday, Uddhav Thackeray had to suffer the humiliation of going to meet NCP supremo Sharad Pawar to seek his party’s support, at a hotel in Mumbai, and had to telephonically request Congress President Sonia Gandhi seeking her party’s support.

Uddhav agreed to do all that the prospective partners wanted him to do. His party walked out of the NDA and his minister Arvind Sawant at the Centre tendered his resignation. At the hotel, Sharad Pawar offered him tea, but no letter of support. Sharad Pawar is a seasoned politician. He always plans ten steps ahead before giving any commitment.

On Monday night, there was this strange spectacle of Sharad Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar and his associates being invited by the Governor to explore ways of forming a government. Till Monday evening, Shiv Sena was claiming support of NCP, and by night, it was Shiv Sena which was being asked to think about offering support to NCP. The roulette of Maharashtra politics has now taken a 180-degree turn.

The issue is not of morality, but lust for power. The BJP cannot blame the Shiv Sena on the issue of morality. It was only last month that the BJP had formed a coalition government in Haryana with Dushyant Chautala’s party. The Congress, too, cannot claim a higher pedestal, because it had formed a government in Karnataka last year with Devegowda’s Janata Dal(S), but the alliance came unstuck.

The main reason behind Congress’ refusal to endorse the Shiv Sena-led coalition government was that senior party leaders were apprehensive about losing support of Muslim voters in the event of forging an alliance with the Shiv Sena. These leaders were openly speaking about possible repercussions among Muslim voters in Kerala, Karnataka, Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.

The biggest loser was, of course, the Shiv Sena, and its leader Uddhav Thackeray. In Hindi, there is a saying: ‘Duvidha mein dou gaye, Maya mili na Ram’. (In confusion, you lose both – materially and spiritually)

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Lawyers must curb the tendency to resort to violence

akb3010A minor quarrel over parking issue between a policeman and a lawyer outside Tees Hazari court in Delhi on Saturday escalated into violent clashes between the policemen and lawyers in the court premises. Police resorted to lathi charge and firing, advocates were beaten up and the lawyers set fire to vehicles.

The Delhi High Court on Sunday directed immediate transfer and suspension of police officers and ordered a probe. On Monday, lawyers in Delhi went on strike, but several video clips that appeared on social media tell a different story. One video clip showed a group of lawyers entering the police control room at Saket court and vandalizing it. Another clip showed a lawyer beating up a policeman who had gone there for some court work. A few litigants who had come to court were beaten up by some lawyers.

All these videos are shocking, to say the least. If one looks at the videos made by lawyers showing the police beating up advocates, it will appear as a police excess. But if one looks at video clips in which lawyers beat up policemen and vandalized police control room, then it tells the other side of the story. The Chief Justice of Delhi High Court sat on Sunday and gave directions against the police. None of the lawyers were arrested, but police offers were suspended or transferred. An independent committee headed by a retired High Court judge was set up to probe the Tees Hazari violence.

In view of this, the lawyers should have exercised restraint and waited for the probe report to come. To the best of my knowledge, most of the lawyers in Delhi supported the High Court’s directives. On the other side, these incidents have caused demoralization in the police force. The IPS officers’ association tweeted that police officers across India stand in solidarity with policemen subjected to physical assault and humiliation.

The incidents that happened on Monday outside Saket court could have been avoided. The video of lawyers beating up a policeman brings a bad name to the legal community, and this act cannot be justified. Incidentally, Bar Council elections are going to be held now, and it appears that some of the lawyers are misusing these incidents to incite their brethren and garner votes.

I have spoken to some senior advocates and they have unequivocally said that such tendencies need to be curbed. The common man seems to be perturbed after seeing lawyers thrashing policemen. If the morale of policemen takes a hit, who will protect the city, this capital and this country?

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Why Imran Khan is suffering from Modiphobia ?

akbThe leader of Pakistan’s largest religious party Maulana Fazlur Rehman has given two days ultimatum for Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign.

Addressing a huge rally in Islamabad attended by Pakistan People’s Party leader Bilawal Bhutto and Pakistan Muslim League (N) leader Shahbaz Sharif, the firebrand cleric indirectly criticized the army alleging that Imran Khan’s party has not come to power on a popular mandate “but on someone else’s direction”.

The Maulana said, Imran Khan’s government has failed to curb rising prices and rampant unemployment and has proved incompetent in reviving an economy which is on the decline. Hours later, the Imran Khan government rejected the demand for resignation, even as senior opposition leaders from PPP and PML(N) were closeted with the Maulana at the latter’s residence to decide about the future of the agitation.

On Friday, Prime Minister Imran Khan was in Gilgit Baltistan, where he alleged that the Maulana was speaking like “an Indian national”. He vowed to send all corrupt politicians to jail, and recited Islamic verses to seek support from the people.

Imran Khan said, the very name of Pakistan is “La Illaha Illaha” (God is Great). He then went on to describe how Islam spread from the Middle East under Prophet Mohammed’s leadership, subduing two big empires of Europe.

Imran then hit out at Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleging that Kashmiris are being suppressed in the valley. The Pakistani PM said,”Modi has played his last card (on Kashmir). The moment curfew is lifted, a sea of people will come out on the streets to demand azadi”.

Clearly, Imran Khan is suffering from Modiphobia. He may not be aware but it is a fact that on Friday, the first day of Jammu & Kashmir as a union territory, markets in several localities of Srinagar were open and traffic was normal.

The fact is that Pakistanis on the streets of Islamabad are demanding ‘azadi’ from Imran Khan’s rule. But since the Pakistani PM is suffering from Modiphobia, he is mentioning Modi, Kashmir and India in all his speeches. And now, Imran Khan has added Islam in his speeches to regain his fast losing support among the common people. He is trying to project himself as a Maulana better than the real one.

On the situation in Kashmir, Imran Khan appears to be totally off the mark. He is daydreaming about millions of Kashmiris coming out on the streets, but the fact is that on Friday, the shops were open, people were busy shopping and there was normal traffic on the roads. Clearly, his advisers are misleading him. Imran Khan may change his outlook if he gives a close look at the ground realities in Kashmir.

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Why PM said, revoking Article 370 was a fitting tribute to Sardar Patel

AKB1909On the birth anniversary of India’s first Home Minister Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a gathering at Kevadiya, Gujarat, that the revocation of Article 370 granting special status to Jammu & Kashmir was a fitting tribute to the memory of the ‘Iron Man’.

Speaking to people at the feet of the world’s tallest statue of Sardar Patel, Modi said, ‘Article 370 had created a wall in Kashmir promoting separatism and terrorism, and I am here today to humbly tell Sardar Patel that the wall has been demolished. I dedicate the August 5 decision to revoke Article 370 to the memory of Sardar Patel.’

India’s first Home Minister holds the distinction of merging 565 princely states in the Indian Union. He completed his task successfully leaving no room for future dispute. India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had taken the responsibility of merging Jammu & Kashmir in the Indian Union. Nehru decided to give special status to J&K under Article 370 along with a separate flag and a separate Constitution. Patel had opposed the move at that time. He wanted a united and secure India, but the Kashmir dispute continued to be a vexed problem for the last 72 years.

For more than 70 years, none of the governments at the Centre mustered the courage to revoke Article 370 and Article 35A that gave the J&K government special powers under a separate Constitution. J&K continued to exist with a separate flag, a separate Constitution and separate emblem. It was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who showed the courage to revoke these articles from the Constitution and integrated J&K with the rest of India. This is certaintly the biggest tribute to the memory of Sardar Patel and all credit should go to Modi for achieving this feat.

It was a coincidence that on the birth anniversary of Sardar Patel, Jammu & Kashmir was formally bifurcated on Thursday as two new union territories of the Indian Union. The event was hailed by PM Modi who said this move would bring political stability and end corruption in Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.

Major shift in Pakistan politics, emergence of a Maulana

akb The huge turnout at the rallies of Pakistani cleric and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman in Multan, Lahore and other cities clearly signifies that the common man in Pakistan is fast losing trust in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s leadership. The Maualan’s ‘Azadi March’ will reach Islamabad today, and though the religious leader claims that this is not a sit-in, there are indications that there could be a flash point.

What began as a movement against what the Maulana described as “a rigged election”, has now turned into a movement that reflects widespread public anger over the non-performance of Imran Khan’s government.

Imran Khan, when he took over as Prime Minister in August last year, had promised a corruption-free ‘Naya Pakistan’ modelled on the Islamic tenets of ‘Riyasat-e-Madina’. Former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and other relatives, and former President Asif Ali Zardari were thrown behind bars in the name of accountability. Nawaz Sharif is now fighting a battle against death in a hospital.

Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party and Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (N) are openly supporting the Azadi March. The Maulana has followed the same path that Imran Khan had traversed till last year by heading a march against the then PM Nawaz Sharif. Imran Khan had promised the people that he would lower inflation, root out corruption and revamp the economy, and the Maulana is now promising the same.

The Pakistani economy is presently in doldrums. Its foreign exchange reserves has dwindled to $7.9 billion, even less than that of Nepal and Bangladesh. Price of milk have shot up to Rs 108-140 per litre, petrol is being sold at Rs 114, diesel at Rs 127 per litre, tomatoes at Rs 75 per kg. The common man is groaning under the burden of rising prices. On the diplomatic front too, Imran Khan’s government has cut a sorry figure. There were few takers when Pakistan raised a hue and cry over the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir.

It is under these circumstances that the Maulana raised the question at his Lahore rally, ‘for how long will the opposition leaders be victimized in the name of accountability?’ The Maulana, unwillingly or so, has now become the voice of the people of Pakistan. He told the rally that Imran Khan, during his 15-month rule, has destroyed the economy, agriculture, industry and trade sectors and has pushed the Pakistani nation to the brink of starvation.

Since Nawaz Sharif is in jail, and the people are yet to repose their trust in the Zardari-Bhutto family, the Maulana is gradually emerging as the people’s choice. Naturally, the powers that be in Islamabad, particularly the Army, is now guarded. Internet connections have been snapped, flying of drones has been banned, and too many restrictions have been clamped in Islamabad. There are two options now before the establishment – either Imran Khan resigns, or the army crushes the protesters to save Imran Khan from being toppled.

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Why terrorists in Kashmir Valley are desperate?

akb3010 The gruesome killings of migrant labourers and truck drivers by terrorists in Kashmir Valley clearly signify that the separatists and their handlers across the border are desperate. When Article 370 was revoked by Parliament in the first week of August, the separatists and terrorists had expected common people in the valley to come out on the streets to protest. Their Pakistani handlers had expected that the security forces would resort to firing leading to more bloodshed in the valley, but this did not happen. Neither a single bullet was fired, nor a single drop of blood was shed.

On the contrary, during the last three months, there was peace in the valley, children went to schools to give their board exams and hundreds of youths appeared at police and army recruitment drives for jobs.

Out of sheer desperation, the terrorists forced people to stay inside their homes, intimated shopkeepers forcing them to keep markets closed and started killing truck drivers who had come from neighbouring states to transport apples from orchards. When a delegation of MPs from European Union visited the valley on Tuesday to assess the situation with their own eyes, the terrorists turned more desperate.

In Kulgam, they lined up migrant labourers, all Muslims from West Bengal, and executed them. This heinous attack was their way of attracting world attention, but the world view about Kashmir has changed totally. Most of the world powers now agree that terrorism in the valley is the main scourge that has bedevilled the lives of common Kashmiris.

The common people in Kashmir is fed up of militancy and wants peace to return to the valley. They want prosperity, peace and development, and it is a heartening sign that the Centre has initiated many programmes for the well being of Kashmiris, since they are now also part of the Indian mainstream after the revocation of Article 370. The common Kashmiri wants hospitals, schools, colleges, industries, better infrastructure and transport so that the valley can regain its majestic position as a paradise on Earth.

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The significance of European Union MPs visiting Kashmir valley

akb2910 A group of MPs from European Parliament will be visiting the Kashmir valley on Tuesday to assess the present ground situation since the abrogation of Article 370 by the Indian Parliament in August this year. This is a significant shift in the policy of Modi government on Kashmir.

The European MPs met the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval on Monday and discussed the current situation. It was clarified that the MEPs from Italy, UK, France, Germany and Poland will be visiting Kashmir ‘in their personal capacities’.

This visit signifies India’s desire to tell the world the true story in the Kashmir valley. Some Indian politicians have raised the question of why leaders from foreign countries are being allowed to meddle in Kashmir issue that concerns only India and Pakistan.

The quiet shift in diplomacy is because India wants to tell the world that it has nothing to hide and all the accusations of human rights violations and clampdown that are being leveled by Pakistan are baseless. Not a single bullet has been fired in the valley in the last three months.

It is true that complete normalcy is yet to be restored in the Valley, but given the situation that had developed over the last 70 years, with various vested interests muddying the waters and with Pakistan openly aiding terrorists, the government’s response this time is well calibrated and for the first time, a ray of hope has emerged for the people of Kashmir. Let the world see for itself the change that has come to the Valley.

It is true that there are still restrictions in place in the Valley. Internet connections have not been restored because the terrorists have been openly using this channel to communicate. Mobile and land telephone connections have been restored, and the clampdown is being graded down gradually. Kashmiri youths have been taking part in army and police recruitment drives in large numbers.

Under these circumstances, one should realize that the restrictions have led to a situation where not a single bullet has been fired, nor a drop of blood has been shed. We need to wait for some more time as the terrorists and their masterminds sitting across the border will try their best to create mayhem, and we must now allow them to succeed, at any cost. Patience and caution are the need of the hour.

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BJP played a wise move in striking a coalition deal with Chautala

AKB2610 The stage is now set for a BJP-JJP coalition government in Haryana, after both the parties on Friday night announced a power-sharing deal with Manohar Lal Khattar as chief minister and JJP chief Dushyant Chautala as Deputy Chief Minister. BJP president Amit Shah, announcing the decision, said that the decision to give the deputy CM post to Dushyant Chautala was taken “to respect the spirit of the mandate”.

Amit Shah has surely played a wise move to ensure that Haryana is given a stable government, sparing the hassles of dealing with all independent MLAs who had already offered support. In the power game, Dushyant Chautala has emerged as a wise politician. At a young age, he broke away from his grandfather’s party INLD, set up his own outfit, campaigned hard and bagged 10 seats to take up the role of kingmaker. After the results were out, Dushyant Chautala exercised utmost patience, took his party leaders into confidence and negotiated a deal that appears to be sensible.

I am describing Dushyant Chautala as wise because the BJP had already secured the support of as many as eight independents, and was in a position to form the government, as it was six short of majority. Since JJP is a new party, Dushyant will now utilize the trappings of power to expand his party’s support base. However the Haryana coalition deal may have some repercussions in Maharashtra, where Shiv Sena is clamouring for the CM post. BJP leadership has already clarified that the question of CM post is non-negotiable, and Devendra Fadnavis will continue to be the chief minister.

The swiftness with which BJP struck a deal with JJP is in striking contrast with the lethargy that has engulfed the Congress party, which, under Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s leadership managed to win 31 seats. There was a time when Congress leaders were known for their clever negotiation skills in securing support to form governments in the states, but given the recent examples of Goa and now Haryana, it is clear that Congress leadership failed because of lethargy.

Not only this, the party leadership took time in handing over leadership to Hooda, the party’s poll campaign started late and now the delay in initiating efforts for government formation.

The surprising thing to note is, the results of Haryana and Maharashtra were declared two days ago, but nobody knows where Rahul Gandhi is and what he is doing. Neither Rahul gave any statement about the results, nor did he initiate any effort towards government formation. One senior Congress leader told me in private that it was better that Rahul did not campaign in Haryana, otherwise the party could not have bagged 31 seats.

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How Modi effectively prevented poll reverses in Haryana, Maharashtra

AKB1010The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance trounced the Congress-NCP combine in the Maharashtra assembly elections and secured a comfortable majority. In Haryana, the BJP emerged as the largest party with six seats short of majority. All eyes are now on independent MLAs and Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janata Party as the BJP has begun efforts for government formation. BJP has both the options available and it is up to the party leadership to decide.

In Haryana, BJP had to pay the price for mistakes committed in ticket distribution. Several party dissidents, who were denied tickets, contested as independents and won. There were several other reasons too for the party failing to repeat its 2014 performance. However, nobody can dispute that Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar provided a corruption-free rule for five years and treated all castes and communities without giving any undue favour. However, the voters were unhappy with the performance of the ministers. Seven out of eight ministers lost.

This assembly election marked the emergence of Dushyant Chautala as a major non-Congress opposition leader. He campaigned throughout the state and gave tickets to rebels from BJP and Congress, and his party JJP managed to win 10 seats in its electoral debut. Not a small performance for a leader aged 31 years. Dushyant became the youngest MP in Lok Sabha at the age of 26, formed his party at the age of 30 and challenged his own family members in politics. Today, the Indian National Lok Dal set up by his grandfather Om Prakash Chautala could win only a single seat.

BJP may manage to form the government in Haryana with the support of independents, but two concerns need to be taken note of.

One, the party leadership was too overconfident. It was aiming at 75-plus seats, and had thought there was no challenge worth the name with the Chautala family and Congress divided. This assessment was proved wrong. Had Prime Minister Narendra Modi not campaigned in the state, the party could have fared badly. During the Lok Sabha polls, under Modi’s leadership, BJP won all the ten LS seats which accounted for 79 assembly segment leads. This has now dwindled to almost half in the assembly polls.

Two, the Congress went to Haryana polls with a clearly divided house and yet won 31 seats. The state unit chief Ashok Tanwar who led the party for last five years, quit and supported Dushyant Chautala’s party. Imagine what the Congress could have achieved if there had been unity in the state unit. The tables could have turned for the BJP in the final run.

In Maharashtra, the election results this time cannot be compared with the 2014 assembly poll results. At that time, the four main players, BJP, Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP were contesting separately. The BJP leadership assessed that there could be anti-incumbency factor and therefore, set up an alliance with the Shiv Sena. BJP contested 150 seats, and won 102, while the Shiv Sena contested 124 and won 61 seats.

Both the BJP and Shiv Sena had to face problems. One, from party rebels who had crossed over to other parties after being denied tickets, and two, both the parties accomodated turncoats from other parties and gave them tickets. The net result: lesser gains, more losses.

Only a large-hearted statesman like Narendra Modi had the sagacity to praise his state leaderships despite poll reverses. He gave the credit for victories in both Maharashtra and Haryana to the state leaderships. The hard fact is that the BJP poll campaign always relies on Modi. Had the Prime Minister not toured both the states to address rallies, the results could have been unfavourable. Voters in both states have tremendous trust in Modi’s leadership and they came out to vote for the party regardless of the performance of the state units.

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No surprise in exit poll predictions for Maharashtra, Haryana

akb (1)The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party may win both the Maharashtra and Haryana assembly elections with comfortable majorities if the exit poll predictions telecast on Monday night are any indication. During the month long campaign in both the key states, the indications about voters’ mood were fairly evident.

The most significant aspect of the Maharashtra assembly polls this time was that the Shiv Sena, which had been constantly quarreling with its ally BJP for the last three to four years, sincerely joined hands and went to the electorate with a united face. Both the BJP and Shiv Sena put in their best efforts, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray and all top leaders addressing election rallies.

On the other hand, the NCP and Congress which had stitched up their alliance months ago, and had finalized the candidates in advance, went to the electorate, but there was lack of vigour and stamina in the campaign. The NCP leaders toiled hard. Their septuagenarian supremo Sharad Pawar even addressed a rally during heavy downpour. One should marvel at his stamina given the condition of his health at this old age. On the other hand, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi campaigned in Maharashtra for only two days, and his speeches were lacklustre. It appeared as if he was campaigning without an iota of motivation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was BJP-Shiv Sena’s star campaigner. He raised local issues in his speeches and also pointed towards confusion in Congress and NCP ranks over a national issue like revocation of Article 370 in Kashmir. One should not be surprised if the results on October 24 may prove the exit poll predictions true.

The most significant feature in Haryana assembly elections was that the two main opposition parties that had given a strong fight to the BJP last time, appeared to be completed divided into warring camps.

Former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda and former state Congress chief Ashok Tanwar first fought over posts, then over the selection of candidates and later worked against each other. This infighting has cost the Congress dearly. Ashok Tanwar went to the extent of extending support to Dushyant Chautala’s Jantantrik Janata Party. INLD chief Om Prakash Chautala’s family has practically disintegrated into various factions, with each faction setting up a different party. Instead of giving a fight to the BJP, they appeared to be fighting one another. The results of this infighting are there for all to see in the exit polls.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi went to Haryana to campaign only to fulfill a formality. On the other hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed more than ten rallies, and stars like Hema Malini, Sunny Deol and UP CM Yogi Adityanath were also roped in. One should, therefore, not be surprised if the exit poll predictions prove true.

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