The results of the elections to the Maharashtra Legislative Council and to the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation announced last Friday have a significant message for the BJP. Having replaced the Congress as the single-most powerful national party, it remains in a position to decimate the opposition wherever the latter is divided. But whenever the opposition fields a common candidate against the BJP, more often than not, it faces a setback.
As in the Maharashtra Legislative Council poll, where the BJP drew a blank in five graduates’ and teachers’ seats. As opposed to the combined three-party Maha Vikas Aghadi challenge, in the Hyderabad municipality poll, the BJP emerged the second largest party, pushing Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen to the third place. The Maharashtra poll was a setback, without doubt; the Hyderabad one, a shot in the arm.
In a region where the party was yet to strike deep roots, the BJP leadership has fired a warning shot, reminding Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhara Rao of his waning appeal. Having come to power as the successful champion of a separate Telangana state, he can no longer expect to encash that gratitude at the polling booth indefinitely. Besides, the brazen manner in which he has inducted members of his extended family into key positions in the party and the government has caused resentment, especially in the urban and semi-urban constituencies.
Admittedly, a big factor that helped BJP propel itself from four to 48 seats in this election was the high-profile campaign it mounted this time. Led by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, a number of senior Central leaders undertook a high-pitched campaign, targeting both Owaisi’s stranglehold on the old city’s Muslims and the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi’s family rule. The outcome showed a 12-fold gain for the party while the TRS slipped from 99 in the last election to a mere 55 in a House of 150.
The AIMIM won the same 44 number of seats it had won in 2016. As for the Congress Party, it remained stuck at the two seats it had won in the last poll. The polls to the key municipality in Telangana may be an indication of the growing disillusionment against the family-run TRS. As for the BJP, it has to toil much harder to strike roots in the state beyond the municipal limits of Hyderabad. But there is little doubt it has emerged a key challenger to the ruling TRS, eclipsing the Congress to the margins of political relevance.
Meanwhile, the council poll is a warning to former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, in particular. By isolating his present and potential rivals in the party he cannot expect to regain power. His arrogant behaviour is proving to be his undoing. The way he denied tickets to senior leaders in the assembly poll had cost the party dear. Instead of learning from the rebuff by voters and the subsequent desertion/betrayal by the Shiv Sena, he continues to behave in an arbitrary manner.
That the BJP lost in the Nagpur teachers’ constituency which it had retained for five decades is a big blow to the former CM, considering it is his hometown. Yes, it is true the three-party gang-up is too much for the BJP to overcome, but the margin of its loss in Nagpur and Pune suggests a complete loss of faith in Fadnavis’s leadership. He needs to begin building bridges of understanding with those whom he had forced out of the party, while consciously adopting a consensual way of decision-making within the party. He should remember at all times, he is the first among Maharashtra BJP, and not the only one in the state unit.
And it would help, if he persuaded his wife not to dabble in political comment on social media. As a citizen, she has every right to do so, but the problem is invariably her forays in matters political are mistaken to reflect the views of her husband. It is a small price to pay to avoid needless controversies. More than to the BJP, the Maharashtra rebuff is a warning to Fadanavis to change his style of functioning. He cannot expect to run the BJP the Thackerays run the Shiv Sena.