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There is still time to introspect

By Sanjeeb Kumar Sahoo

There is a common perception among people that Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena faction is weak. On the contrary, I feel Uddhav Thackeray is now stronger than ever and his faction may win the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections to install its own Mayor, as per the trends of the recent Maharashtra bypolls results.

Eknath Shinde, the incumbent Chief Minister of Maharashtra, might be a good person, but he sent the wrong message to the people when he turned on his former boss and forced him to resign as the Chief Minister of the state. It poses serious questions over his integrity as whatever he did with Uddhav Thackeray has set the wrong precedent for any politician or party president. I firmly believe it is because of Shinde and his faction, the BJP lost the Kasba assembly seat after 28 years.

In politics, anything is possible. I believe Prime Minister Narendra Modi still wants to stitch an alliance with Uddhav Thackeray because I never heard him make any personal remarks about Thackeray. He knows that if the BJP wants to repeat the 2019 Lok Sabha results in 2024, it can only do so with the help of Uddhav Thackeray and not through Shinde’s Shiv Sena. This is why, despite sharing power with Shinde’s Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, the BJP failed to secure the Kasba Peth Assembly seat in Pune city, their bastion for nearly three decades.

In contrast, recent assembly election outcomes are not what the BJP anticipated. Himanta Biswa Sarma, the chief minister of Assam and a senior figure in the party who oversees all of the northeastern states, had predicted before the election that his party would win 55 seats out of 60, but the party was unable to repeat its 2018 assembly results, in which it won 36 of the 51 seats contested. On the other hand, its partner party, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura, won only one seat out of five, against eight seats out of nine in the 2018 assembly elections. Nonetheless, congratulations to the BJP and its top leaders for successfully retaining Tripura.

I feel that the opposition party, Congress, should not be dismayed, as the party took one seat from both the BJP and the TMC in Maharashtra and West Bengal, and retained one seat in Tamil Nadu with the help of the DMK. Instead of being sad about losing Ramgarh byelection, the Congress should rather introspect what led to this defeat. I’m not surprised by the results because this seat belongs to AJSU. AJSU had lost the 2019 assembly seat because All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) president Sudesh Mahto was overconfident. Mahto broke the alliance with the BJP because the party wouldn’t give in to the ally’s demand for 17 of 81 seats in the 2019 assembly elections. His choice hurt his party and the BJP. If BJP and AJSU had worked together in 2019, the party would have won the Ramgarh assembly seat.

The fact that BJP and AJSU broke up right before the assembly elections cost them dearly. Partners for 19 years, the BJP and AJSU, who had been allies since the state was formed in 2000, were unable to reach a seat-sharing agreement in the run-up to the elections. They would have easily won at least nine more seats if they had formed an alliance: Madhupur, Ramgarh, Dumri, Ghatsila, Jugsalai, Ichagarh, Chakradharpur, Khijri, and Lohardaga. BJP had the chance of having its own Chief Minister in Jharkhand, however, AJSU ruined the BJP’s chances of retaining power by fielding candidates in 53 assembly constituencies. This caused Kurmi votes to be split, which helped the alliance of people who were against the government.

AJSU’s Sunita Choudhary received 71,874 votes in the 2019 elections, while BJP Rananjay Kumar received 31,874 votes, for a total of 103,100 votes. In the 2019 elections, Congress’ Mamta Devi won 99, 944 votes as part of the UPA coalition. AJSU candidate Sunita Choudhary received 115, 669 votes, while Congress candidate Bajrang Mahto received 93, 653 votes in the just ended poll. As a result of the Hemant Soren government’s domicile policy based on 1932 land records, it is likely that some UPA voters did not vote for Congress candidates. As a result, all UPA partners must evaluate the poll catastrophe, or the UPA may have difficulties in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

On the other hand, BJP and its alliance partner should not celebrate victory, but rather introspect about the recent results, as a leader of the BJP and Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said his party will introspect why it lost Kasba Peth bypoll seat to the Congress in Pune district. Another reason for the BJP to reconsider its strategy is that the party won 32 seats in Tripura assembly elections with a vote share of roughly 39 percent. The BJP fielded its candidates on 55 seats and won 32, three fewer than it did in 2018. In 2018, the party received 43.59 percent vote and won 36 of the 51 seats up for grabs. On the other side, the BJP’s Tripura partner, the Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT), which was hampered by factional conflict, managed to win only one seat out of six contested, when it had won eight seats out of nine seats five years ago. Its vote share this time was a pitiful 1.26 percent, compared to 7.3 percent in the 2018 assembly elections.

On the other hand, if rebel Shiv Sena’s leader Rahul Kalate had not contested from the Chinchwad Assembly seat , the BJP may not have won the Chinchwad seat. While the BJP won this seat with 54.17% of the vote in the 2019 assembly polls, BJP candidate Ashwini Jagtap received only 1,35,603 votes with 47.23 shares, despite support from Maharashtra Chief Minister Shinde and his Shiv Sena. Even Mrs. Jagtap attributed her triumph to her husband’s development efforts as an MLA. But, vote shares reveal that all is not well inside the Maharashtra BJP, as she faced stiff opposition from NCP candidate Nana Kate.

I therefore believe that no one can win a poll by releasing daily press releases and appearing on television. All political leaders and candidates should maintain constant contact with voters rather than with journalists. Surprisingly, Independent candidate Kalate, a member of the Shiv Sena (UBT), played a significant role in dividing MVA votes, resulting in the defeat of NCP candidate Nana Kate.

Laxman Jagtap, Ashwini Jagtap’s late husband, was elected to the Chinchwad Assembly three times. In 2009, the constituency was made. So Fadnavis was right when he said ‘we need to think about the results of the recent assembly elections and by-elections.’ I won’t dwell much on the Prime Minister Modi’s rousing speech at the BJP’s headquarters as the vote percentage in favour of the saffron party took a hit since the last poll.

The same thing applies to Mamata Banerjee’s TMC, which won five seats in Meghalaya assembly polls with the help of former Congress leaders but failed to open an account in Tripura and lost a sitting seat to Congress candidate Bayron Biswas. Traditionally, the ruling party candidates never lose a sitting seat, but here party faced the biggest embarrassment as in the 2021 Assembly elections, the seat was won by the TMC’s Subrata Saha with more than 50% vote share and a huge margin of more than 50,000 votes. This was a huge embarrassment for the ruling party. Recent polls show that its share of the vote has dropped to 39%.

Mamata Banerjee should learn from Odisha Chief Minister and BJD President Naveen Patnaik, whose focus is solely on Odisha rather than expanding his party networks in other states. He has performed exceptionally well as Chief Minister since 2000, and recently received praise from International Hockey Federation (FIH) president Tayyyab Ikram for his government’s efforts to organise successively successful World Cups in Odisha. Tayyab Ikram, speaking to reporters during a packed Press Conference at the Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium, wondered how this World Cup was becoming an ever-larger spectacle. Hence, my modest recommendation to Mamata Di is that she concentrates solely on West Bengal and its development, like Patnaik does for the people of Odisha.

I also extend my best wishes to BJP’s Manik Saha as he continues to be the Chief Minister of Tripura for the second time, National People’s Party’s Conrad Sangma for requesting BJP’s support for a second term to lead Meghalaya as Chief Minister and Neiphiu Rio for becoming Chief Minister of Nagaland for the fourth time. It is to be noted that National Political Mirror, in its 22 January 2023 issue, had accurately predicted the results of the most recent assembly elections in north eastern states.

Note: On March  08, 2023, this piece was originally printed in a weekly magazine of National Political Mirror.

 

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