After the conclusion of Dussehra, the election fever is catching up in Maharashtra and Haryana. PM Modi is slated to address 9 rallies in Maharashtra and 4 in Haryana beginning October 14. While the main contest in both the states is between BJP / NDA and Congress / UPA, the smaller parties are vying to make a strong presence and spoil the chances of both the groups. These parties together with independents have historically bagged 15%-20% vote share in elections in these states.
Many smaller parties are part of alliance of either NDA or UPA. Peasant and Workers Party, Bahujan Vikas Aaghadi and a faction of Republican Party of India (RPI) are contesting under the banner of UPA while RPI (Athawale), RashtriyaSamaj Party, Shiv Sangram Party and Swabhimani Party are contesting under NDA on lotus symbol.
All eyes are on Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aaghadi (VBA) which made a dazzling debut in general elections 2019. VBA partnered with Asaddudin Owaisi’s AIMIM in these elections. The alliance hoped to gain traction among the Dalits, Muslims and Buddhist community which account for 30% population of the state.
The alliance won from Aurangabad seat where AIMIM candidate won, while in Akola VBA chief Prakash finished runner up. The alliance recorded 7.7% vote share, VBA 7% and AIMIM 0.7%. The alliance led to the defeat of UPA candidates in 7 seats as they received higher votes than margin of victory. These seats were: Buldhana, Parbhani, Gadchiroli-Chimur, Sangli, Hatkanangle, Nanded and SolapurThe alliance also led to the loss of 2 NDA candidates in Amravati and Chandrapur.
VBA received 81% support of the Buddhist community which accounts for about 6% of state’s population. However, it failed to make a dent into the Dalit vote bank, majority of which voted for NDA (53%). AIMIM won the only seat it contested, the Aurangabad seat which has significant minority population of 31 percent. However, on other seats it couldn’t get minority voters to support VBA candidates.
AIMIM made its debut in state politics in 2014 assembly elections winning 2 seats. Muslims account for 12% of state population. In Mumbai and Aurangabad, they account for 19% and 31% of population respectively. This is where the AIMIM has considerable base. It has made a dent in the Muslim votebank of Congress. It has managed to attract a section of youth fed up with the minority appeasement politics of Congress and NCP. The party advocates higher representation of minorities in Parliament and legislative assemblies in proportion to their population.
BJP–Shiv Sena alliance was leading in 227 out of 288 Vidhan Sabha constituencies. VBA with its nearly 7% votes could hold key to a sizeable number of state assembly constituencies. The average margin in 2014 was 12.5% votes. 111 seats witnessed a victory margin of less than 7%. So, VBA could play a key role of disruptor in the state elections. However, the inability of both VBA and AIMIM to expand their vote blocks will be a key challenge for their prospects. They could be seen as vote katwas. On the other hand, the weakening of Congress and NCP provide an opportunity for these parties to build on their performance in Lok Sabha elections.
SP is another player who could win a couple of seats, however, like AIMIM, its influence is limited to minority dominated seats in Mumbai city. Here, it is likely to face stiff competition from AIMIM. Raj Thackeray’s MNS is another party which is in the fray, however, it has lost much of its sheen. The party used to have a decent influence among the Marathi voters in urban centers of Mumbai, Pune and Nashik. Party can win one or two seats basis the strength of individual candidates.
The alliance between AIMIM and VBA has fallen off. VBA offered just 8 seats to AIMIM which irked the party and they split. Ambedkar was probably unhappy with AIMIM’s inability to transfer votes. He might have thought AIMIM benefitted more from the alliance. AIMIM is contesting on 44 seats and VBA on all 288.
VBA was also in talks with Congress for an alliance but was making unreasonable demands. Ambedkar wanted Congress to dump NCP and declare him as their CM candidate. The maverick leader may be overestimating his abilities. The party has been unable to make a dent in Dalit vote bank where it also faces competition from BSP. Moreover, in an election which is appearing to be one sided it is highly improbable that he would play the role of kingmaker. He may spoil UPA chances in few seats, but the bigger question is can he emerge as a viable opposition option for the people of the state.
Haryana is witnessing a multi-cornered contest between BJP, Congress, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and smaller / new parties. Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), an offshoot of INLD, founded by Om Prakash Chautala’s son Ajay Chautala and grandson Dushyant Chautala, is making its debut in state elections. It had contested in alliance with AAP in Lok Sabha elections garnering 4.9% vote share. The alliance finished runner up in 1 seat, Hisar and third in 6 seats.
The party is contesting with INLD and claiming JJP is the true heir of Chaudhary Devi Lal’s legacy. In Lok Sabha polls though it got less than 5% votes, it scored ahead of INLD. The party is expected to give a tough fight to INLD as well as Congress for the Jat vote. Jats influence 37 out of 90 assembly seats in the state. JJP made a fantastic debut in Jind by-poll when its candidate Dushyant (contesting as independent as EC formalities were not then completed) finished runner up ahead of Congress and INLD candidates.
However, their alliance with Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP has ended. AAP has thrown its gauntlet in the battle for Haryana. Arvind comes from Haryana and the party has always felt that it can build a base here because of its proximity to Delhi where it is in power. It is contesting on 50 seats and hopes to make a mark, however, it looks very ambitious at the moment according to me.
Dalits account for 20% population of the state, an influential vote block, however, they haven’t had their fair share in the power structure. BSP has a decent presence in the state, bagging between 3%-4% vote share. The party had entered into an alliance with INLD, however, post family feud and split in INLD, it has parted ways. Mayawati has now joined hands with rebel BJP leader Raj Kumar Saini’s party Loktantra Suraksha Party (LSP).
To sum up, smaller parties could play spoilsport to chances of BJP and Congress in both state elections. It remains to be seen who they damage more. However, with their entry, the opposition vote is likely to be split, benefitting the ruling party.
Image Credit: BBC