A day after assembly elections results in the tiny northern Indian state of Haryana failed to decide a clear winner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) late on Friday struck a deal with the new regional Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) to form a government.
Formally announcing the alliance at a press conference, BJP chief and Home Minister Amit Shah said the party’s Manohar Lal Khattar, above, (Image: Facebook) will be sworn in for the second term as chief minister while JJP leader Dushyant Chautala will serve as his deputy.
Shah, flanked by Khattar and Chautala, said BJP’s legislature party will meet in Chandigarh, Haryana’s capital, on Saturday to discuss government formation.
Chautala said the alliance was necessary for political stability in Haryana.
BJP, which was six short of simple majority in the 90-member House, will now have the support of 10 JJP lawmakers.
Earlier in the day, Abhay Chautala of Indian National Lok Dal, Gopal Kanda of Haryana Lokhit Party and seven Independents extended their support to BJP in forming a government.
Kanda’s offer of unconditional support sparked outrage as he is accused of abetting the suicide of an employee in his aviation company in 2012.
While BJP did not officially react to Kanda’s offer of support, media and Congress party came down heavily on the saffron party for “seeking” the tainted lawmaker’s support just to hang on to power.
A Congress spokesman wanted Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah to explain the possible role of Kanda in government formation.
The Congress party was hoping that JPP would accept its alliance plan since Chautala kept his options open.
But even if JPP were to form an alliance with Congress, it would be still six short to form a government.
Hurdles in Maharashtra
In Maharashtra, another state which went to assembly polls, BJP is facing problems in government formation from its own alliance partner Shiv Sena.
Election results showed BJP winning 103 seats in the 288- member Maharashtra assembly. However, the party fell short of the half-way mark (144 seats) to independently form a government in the state.
Reports indicate that Shiv Sena, BJP’s old-time ally and a strong regional party which won 56 seats, wants 50% of Cabinet posts and the chief minister’s 5-year tenure to be rotated.
BJP may not accept this since its chief minister Devendra Fadnavis will be breaking a 50-year record if he is sworn in for the second term.
If Shiv Sena insists that their young leader Aditya Thackeray should be made chief minister for the first half of the tenure, BJP may find itself in an embarrassing situation.
In the past, Shiv Sena had behaved like an opposition party and frequently criticised BJP’s policies.
In Friday’s editorial in the party newspaper Samna, Shiv Sena, instead of congratulating its alliance partner, praised the electoral performance of NCP and its leader Sharad Pawar. Following this, NCP offered its support to Sena to form a government.
On Monday, Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray, Aditya’s father, may be holding talks on government formation with his party colleagues in Mumbai and BJP’s top leaders in New Delhi. He may like his son to be made the chief minister.
Already, posters of Aditya Thackeray with calls to make him chief minister have appeared in the streets of Mumbai.
The election results in Haryana and Maharashtra were not up to the expectations of BJP. Political pundits’ predictions proved wrong and exit polls were also wide of the mark.
Most exit polls predicted a clean sweep for BJP in the two states and a crushing defeat for Congress. But Congress won 34 seats in Haryana although it came only fourth with 44 seats in Maharashtra.
NCP leader Sharad Pawar, whom analysts described as a spent force, proved he is still a formidable leader as his party emerged third by winning 54 seats in Maharashtra.
The election results allayed fears that India is sliding into one-party rule. They gave the Opposition hope of winning future elections with better planning and organisational skills.
Interestingly, Congress fared better without much support from the Gandhi family during the recent election campaigns.
The poll results serve as a wake-up call for BJP to also focus on economic and local issues impacting the lives of ordinary people. In assembly polls, the party cannot bank too much on the Modi magic and issues like terrorism and Pakistan.
Vidarbha’s drought- and flood-hit farmers voted against the saffron party. People who lost jobs in Maharashtra and Haryana too voted for change.