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TOI EDIT-Politics In Command Most exit polls predict a BJP victory. Opposition is in all sorts of trouble

October 23, 2019 06:07 AM


Politics In Command
Most exit polls predict a BJP victory. Opposition is in all sorts of trouble
T The exit polls predicting easy wins for BJP in Maharashtra and Haryana – save for one indicating a close fight in the latter – reflect the state of play in the country since Lok Sabha elections in May. BJP made it look like the battle was won even before a single vote was cast through several actions – such as engineering defections in NCP and Congress. Nationalism was one of BJP’s key electioneering themes even in an assembly election. And it appears to have worked – even as unprovoked firing from Pakistan highlighted the danger from across the border just when voters were headed to polling booths.

It also helped that in Devendra Fadnavis and Manohar Khattar, BJP had two credible chief ministers to project. Fadnavis in particular had impressed with his competent handling of Shiv Sena’s frequent tantrums, the Maratha reservation issue and farm unrest. NCP supremo Sharad Pawar gamely tried to make a match of it but resembled an old warhorse riding out into the sunset.

If the exit poll findings hold true on counting day tomorrow, it should give BJP a free hand to push reforms that stimulate growth and create jobs. Rahul Gandhi’s “suit boot ki sarkar” stump speech – this time alleging that the corporate tax cuts help rich industrialists – has been rejected yet again, so it’s time to move beyond it and press the accelerator on reforms. However, the converse may also hold true: absence of meaningful opposition breeds complacency and there is no incentive for government to reform. But people appear to have placed their faith in BJP, and the latter must respond by acting quickly and coherently to reverse the current economic slowdown.

For the opposition, a defeat in Maharashtra and Haryana despite the slowdown and its perceptible impact on people exposes the paucity of good leadership and strategies. To take on the BJP juggernaut, opposition parties are left with the only option of uniting like the Janata Party of 1977, besides promoting young and clean leaders. Opposition unity isn’t easy as the cult of the party supremo dominates Indian politics. Generational change is harder as senior leaders will not voluntarily make way for young blood. The recent cornering of Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh by their senior rivals betray the general inertia in opposition ranks. All this is good news for BJP. But while it pummels the opposition into submission, there remains much work to do in alleviating economic stress

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