The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies have won additional seats on top of their numerical strength in the June 10 Rajya Sabha elections in Maharashtra, Haryana, and Karnataka. This provides the national party momentum in these three states, which are likely see elections, local or state-level, before the 2024 general elections.
On the other hand, the Congress lost a crucial seat in Haryana, a sitter, once again bringing factionalism in the party to the forefront.
The BJP held 11 of these 16 seats, expected to lose five — three in Rajasthan, and one each in Haryana and Maharashtra. However, it forced a contest to utilise its surplus votes, and exploit dissent in opposition camp.
The credit for the BJP victory in Maharashtra goes to former Chief Minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis who has settled scores with Shiv Sena leader and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. Fadnavis ensured that the BJP got support from parties and independents backing the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) in the assembly. He did not bow down to the MVA’s offer of continuing with the 22-year-long tradition of the Rajya Sabha elections going uncontested.
With this victory Fadnavis’ stature — which had taken a beating after the failed attempt in 2019 to grab power through a 5 AM swearing in — will improve substantially.
The MLC polls slated to be held on June 20 will see the two sides crossing swords again. Eleven candidates, six from the MVA and five from the BJP are in fray for 10 seats. The victory in Rajya Sabha provides a psychological advantage to the BJP.
It is also a big blow to the Shiv Sena which is gearing up for the upcoming BMC elections later this year. It will face a spirited BJP in Mumbai which the Shiv Sena has held for the past 30 years from where it derives its strength.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar pulled off a stunning victory for independent candidate Kartikeya Sharma. The Congress had sufficient numbers (31 MLAs) to get its candidate Ajay Maken elected. However, factionalism in the Congress led to Kuldeep Bishnoi, unhappy at being denied the Congress President post, cross voting. The party is still grappling with the leadership issue which it needs to settle as various camps are working against each other.
The loss also highlights the continued tendency of Rahul Gandhi to sit on things and not intervene and settle issues in time. Reportedly Bishnoi has been trying to meet Gandhi for a long time, but is yet to be given an appointment.
In Karnataka, the Congress failed to seal a deal with the Janata Dal (Secular) which put up its own candidate making it easy for the BJP to win third seat.
The episode shows the high-handedness of the Congress in dealing with allies, its inability to communicate effectively, and convince them for a larger cause, in this case a quid pro-quo for getting HD Deve Gowda elected in 2020.
The Congress needs to patch up with the JDS, else it will be difficult to beat the BJP next year, despite all issues faced by the saffron party.
Rajasthan is the only state where the BJP’s strategy did not work. ‘Jadugar’, as Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is fondly called, showed that he still has the tact to take on the might of the BJP.
The math was very tight but Gehlot ensured all 126 MLAs, including 18 smaller parties/independents voted for Congress candidates despite money power in full display, and Subhash Chandra claiming support of eight MLAs of grand old party.
Where the remaining three state units failed, Gehlot led the Congress to victory winning three of the four seats on offer. His stature within the party as an organiser improves substantially. Now he could succeed in convincing the high command that it should allow him to remain Chief Minister, and lead the party to polls in the 2023 state elections.
The Rajasthan victory, however, brings its own challenges, as the party leadership will have to convince Sachin Pilot, who probably is eying the CM post. How can the Congress remove a performing Chief Minister? Sure the party would not want to repeat the mistake it did in Punjab.The Rajya Sabha results prove that the BJP’s mammoth election machinery is ambitious, it fights to win every election, and doesn’t rest on its laurels.