Here are 6 key takeaways from Maharashtra and Haryana assembly elections 2019:
1. Rising unemployment, economic slowdown hurt BJP
A slowing economy and increasing unemployment dented BJP’s prospects, particularly in Haryana. The state has the highest unemployment rate in the country — three and a half times the national average.
In its 2014 manifesto, BJP promised lakhs of jobs to the unemployed, but it’s failed miserably in delivering on its promise, with more than 16 lakh educated unemployed youth in the state. The state, where two-thirds of India’s passenger cars and 60% of its two-wheelers are manufactured, has struggled due to the economic slowdown with the auto sector bearing the brunt. Auto sales declined for the eleventh straight month in September with a 24% drop. The result — up to 50,000 workers have lost their jobs in the Gurgaon-Manesar auto belt alone.
Unemployment in Haryana (Source: CMIE)
2. The Jat factor in Haryana
Jats comprise 28% of the state’s population and 25% of its electorate. In the Lok Sabha elections held earlier this year, the saffron party made a clean sweep by winning all seats. In this state election, BJP went to the polls under the leadership of its CM Manohar Lal Khattar, from the state’s minority Punjabi community, while Congress and Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) were headed by Jat leaders — former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Dushyant Chautala, the great grandson of former deputy PM Devi Lal, respectively.
In 32 seats with a sizeable Jat population, the BJP won 8 (down one seat from 2014), while in non-Jat areas, the party won 32 out of 48 seats.
But it was INLD that was hit the hardest, witnessing a decline of 8 seats and a significant drop of almost 23% in its vote share. This meant that the Jat vote shifted to the Congress and the JJP, both gaining 4 seats each at INLD’s expense. A possible tactical understanding between JJP and Congress, similar to BJP’s strategy in Karnataka where it did not field strong candidates in JD(S) strongholds, may have also contributed to the former’s good show. Contrary to expectations, Hooda and Dushyant did not end up cutting into each other’s vote banks which the BJP had banked upon.
The Jat quota issue, in particular, appears to have dented Khattar’s prospects. Though his government did accede to Jat demands, granting them 10% reservation, the decision was stayed by the high court.
3. Vidarbha drags BJP down In Maharashtra
In 2014, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance won 48 of the 62 assembly seats in Vidarbha region. Five years later, the alliance’s seat share has dropped to 33. On the other hand, Congress, which won 10 seats in 2014, gained five more seats taking its tally to 15, while NCP, which won only one seat in 2014, bagged 6 in 2019. One of the reasons attributed to the NDA’s slide has been agrarian distress in the region. Maharashtra records the most farmer suicides in the country, with over 12,000 deaths in the four years from 2015-2019, largely due to mounting debts because of drought-related crop failures and high loans taken to tide over financial woes. Fadnavis, who had announced a grandiose scheme in 2016 to make the state drought free by 2019, failed to deliver, creating some unpopularity.
4. BJP clear winner in urban areas, lags in rural seats
The BJP was a hit in urban areas compared with rural areas, especially in Maharashtra. Urban areas are traditionally a BJP stronghold, and the NDA won 74 of the total 99 seats here. A. 29% vote share in Maharashtra’s urban areas was enough for the BJP to mop up a majority of seats. In Mumbai, the saffron coalition won 30 of the 36 seats. In the relatively well-off areas in Maharashtra, including the Konkan region and Thane, two-thirds of the seats went to the BJP coalition. Fadnavis’ infrastructure push and the benefits of Centre-sanctioned projects made an impression. However, the coalition won just 87 out of 189 rural seats.
In Haryana, BJP won 20 of the state’s 31 urban seats (64%), and the Congress bagged 6 seats in urban areas. BJP won just 20 out of 59 rural seats in the state. While attention to connectivity worked for Khattar, poor civic governance proved a dampener.
5. Pawar’s comeback in Maharashtra
The dominant Maratha community in western Maharashtra found greater appeal in the ageing Sharad Pawar’s energetic rallies than in the BJP’s reservation pie. The NCP bounced back by retaining its traditional Maratha vote bank with gains in Pune, Ahmednagar, Solapur, Satara, Sangli and Kolhapur districts of western Maharashtra. Unlike the Lok Sabha polls where the BJP-Sena secured sizeable votes from both Marathas and Dhangars, this time round, the Marathas voted chiefly for the NCP that is allied with the Congress in the state.
Pawar succeeded in touching a chord with the Marathas when he raised the issues of agricultural distress, unemployment and the government’s reported apathy for the rural sector. He was also critical of the government for its policy on sugarcane — issues directly or indirectly related to the Maratha community. Further, the Maratha community has a natural affection for Pawar and events like the proposed ED inquiry against him, the Satara rally where he addressed the crowds in pouring rain and the large-scale exodus from the NCP to the BJP generated sympathy for him, putting the reservation issue on the backburner.
6. Haryana, where victory margin is less than 2,000
In the 90-member Haryana assembly, there were nine seats where the winning candidate won with a margin of less than 2,000 votes — four each to the Congress and BJP, respectively, and one to Gopal Kanda of the Haryana Lokhit Party. The smallest victory margin in the state was at Sirsa, where Kanda defeated Independent candidate Gokul Setia by 602 votes.