It is all over bar the counting. And by all accounts, the incumbent governments in both Maharashtra and Haryana are on the way out. Just as well. They had taken the voters for granted, pillaging taxpayers’ money, behaving arrogantly and generally adopting a deaf-and-dumb stance towards people’s everyday woes. Fifteen years of unmitigated corruption and misrule by the Congress-NCP combine in Maharashtra and ten years of Hooda’s `dadagiri’ in Haryana had alienated voters. There were money-making scams galore in both states, with Hooda buying job security by roping in Sonia Gandhi’s notorious son-in-law Robert Vadra for the bestowing of special favours. The voter has now spoken. And if the exit polls are any indication, the voter has spoken most contemptuously, rejecting the ruling parties in the two states. However, whom he or she has preferred to put in the seats of power is less certain, though here again, there is no confusion as to which party is set to emerge as the single largest in the two assemblies.
The Modi-led BJP is sitting pretty to emerge as by far the largest party in Maharashtra and Haryana. Indeed, a couple of well-regarded pollsters give the party clear majority in both states. The Modi-Shah-led BJP had gambled big by going solo in these states. The gamble seems to have paid off rather well. It is notable that in neither state did the BJP have a majority of its own; in fact, in both states, it was always a junior ally of the dominant regional party, that is, of the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and the Indian National Lok Dal in Haryana. Now these once-senior partners seem to have been relegated to the second position to the BJP which, according to the exit polls, is on course to emerge as the
That despite a weak organisational presence in the two states, a fact borne out by its fielding of new entrants in the polls, the BJP still worsted its rivals speaks volumes for the continuing pull of the Modi appeal. Five months after winning a record national mandate, the Modi magic remains undiminished. He singlehandedly seems to have pulled it off for his party. Neither a narrow regional appeal of the Sena, playing victim of an alleged betrayal by the alliance partner, nor the aggressive Jat appeal of the Chautalas seemed to have swayed the voters in the two states. The overriding concern of the voters seemed to be to elect someone who promises a purposeful and transparently uncorrupt government. The Modi-led BJP alone seemed to fit the bill among all the contenders. Yes, the actual results will only be out on Sunday. We can only speculate on the outcome until then.
But, regardless of the official results, now that the polls in the two key states are behind us, it is time for the Modi Government to take some tough decisions. There ought to be no more distractions ahead – yes, elections in Jharkand and J&K are due next, but these cannot be allowed to impact governance. Five months after his installation, Prime Minister Modi now has no excuse to shelve vital reforms necessary for faster growth. Thus far, he has merely sought to clear the mess left behind by the previous government. Now he is expected to implement his economic and social blueprint to put India back on the growth trajectory.
Modi should begin to implement the long-awaited Goods and Services Tax. Given the pole position of the BJP in the federal polity, reaching a consensus on GST should no longer pose an insurmountable problem. Again, Modi has already unveiled his potentially revolutionary reform to free the manufacturing sector of the corrupt inspector raj. Another vital reform should break the monopoly of the agriculture produce marketing committees, which exploit vegetable and fruit growers and also milk consumers of these essentials for prohibitively high profits.
The retrograde land and labour legislations need to be urgently updated to facilitate rather than hinder infrastructure and manufacturing expansion. There are a number of other important issues which require the Prime Minister’s attention, but it should suffice to mention here that given his commitment to put India on the path of faster growth, he is unlikely to allow any obstacles to stand in his way. Changing the `sab chalta hai’ mentality of the permanent bureaucracy is an equally big challenge. Modi has the popular and legislative support to ensure that the bureaucracy plays its part in the nation-building task. So far, he has done well to touch upon universal problems like cleanliness, attendance in offices, ridding the statute book of obsolete laws, etc. Now, he will need to undertake major structural reforms in the economic and political sphere to make India work. People believe he can do it. Hence the vote for the BJP in the Maharashtra and Haryana polls.