NEW DELHI: Four states will go to the polls within the year, if the BJP is able to clear its confusion and agree to elections in Delhi as well. The others include Maharashtra, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir with the Congress in the ruling coalition in all three states.
Jharkhand could be the fifth state to face the electorate late this year, as the term of its Assembly expires in January 2015.
The BJP that has decimated the Congress party in the Lok Sabha polls is determined to repeat its performance in all three states, with the hesitancy about Delhi arising from the assessment that there has been a perceptible shift in this middle class city that could make a poll at this stage somewhat of a gamble. A decision on Delhi is imminent and likely to be announced soon.
The focus, however, is currently on the other three states with communal polarisation becoming the key for the BJP for attaining a majority. In Maharashtra, the Pune violence has had an impact on the state with the death of the young techie in particular creating tensions and trauma in different parts. Cities and towns that had taken pride in communal amity are being affected to varying degrees by the communal virus, with The Citizen deliberately not identifying these as part of basic journalistic ethics. However, sources and residents from the state spoken to gave details of Hindus and Muslims gradually moving into segregated localities for security, with the minorities in some parts particularly terrified on this front.
BJP President Amit Shah in his maiden speech at the party National Council ratifying his nomination, said that the time had come to spread the BJP ideology and thereby expand its reach across the country. He told the party workers that they should gear up for the forthcoming Assembly elections, including the by elections due in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and other states, and ensure that the BJP was able to form the government on its own. He said that otherwise the BJP would not be able to last at the centre for too long.
Maharashtra with 288 seats in the Assembly thus becomes crucial for the BJP that is keen to free itself of the Shiv Sena stranglehold. Significantly, as the sources pointed out the Shiv Sena while a ‘Hindu nationalist party’ does not accept the mandate of the RSS and is not dependent on Nagpur for its political strategy. While a BJP-Shiv Sena victory is being predicted as a certainty, it was clear from Shah’s speech that he is looking for a BJP majority as was the case in Uttar Pradesh where, after the Muzaffarnagar violence, the vote polarised to give 71 parliamentary seats to the BJP.
In the current state Assembly the Congress holds 82 seats, its ally the Nationalist Congress party has 62 seats with the BJP and Shiv Sena neck and neck with 46 and 45 seats respectively. Shah has now directed his cadres to work for a majority. Sources said that the administration was concerned about increased violence as the elections draw near, maintaining that the vigilance had been increased to douse rumours in the districts. This could become a major issue following some reports that the Congress and the NCP, despite the Lok Sabha debacle, had improved their position in the state slightly. However, this does not seem to be sufficient to rescue these parties from decay, particularly with the Congress leadership committed to the status quo that is unacceptable to all communities in Maharashtra.
Haryana, despite the comparatively low Muslim population, has been in the grip of communal violence and tension that is spreading. Mewat simmering under hate-generating rumours erupted in violence recently with reports making it clear that the Muslim dominated belt is still simmering. Sources said that polarisation of communities here is visible on the ground, and is spreading across the Jat majority state.
In Tauru, a town close to Gurgaon communal riots broke out over the death of a man in a road accident. This in itself was a reflection of simmering tensions in the area.
Muslims, as was reported in the Hindu on August 11, were forced to flee from Basai village in Gurgaon adjacent to Delhi by a mob that attacked their homes and shops. Most of them are running small business like barber shops, scrap and tailoring units to eke out a living. They have fled to other places, and are terrified now of returning for fear of their lives. Despite the fact that Haryana is currently under a Congress government there has been no state effort to intervene, except for a couple of arrests and registration of cases. The displaced families are not convinced of their security. However, there have been reports of Hindu families protecting them from the attackers who did not seem to be neighbours as was the case in Muzaffarnagar where the violence completely broke Jat-Muslim amity in the western belt of Uttar Pradesh.
The communal tension has had a major impact across the state, and given the existing alienation with the non-performance of the Congress government, the BJP expects the polarisation in Haryana to be in its favour. Haryana has 90 seats in the Assembly, with the Congress holding 40 seats, INLD with 31 seats, and the NDA with just 11 seats. The Lok Sabha elections went in favour of the BJP but Shah who is determined to ‘excel’ in all poll going states is clear that the BJP tally in the states should surpass all others. This will also have an impact on the complexion of the Rajya Sabha that is currently dominated by parties other than the BJP.
Shah has also indicated his focus states by asking the BJP workers to prepare for polls in Haryana, Maharashtra but also Jharkhand and Bihar. Former Bihar chief minister and Janata Dal (U) leader Nitish Kumar is on record accusing the BJP of trying to create communal tension in the state ahead of the recent Lok Sabha polls, not once but several times. He had said that the BJP wanted to “vitiate the atmosphere” and told The Citizen at the time that the administration had been directed to be vigilant and ensure that efforts to disturb the peace were thwarted at the onset.
The Congress party has also been attacking the BJP for spreading communalism. Party leader Rahul Gandhi set loose a tirade of allegations between the Samajwadi party and the BJP when he spoke of the 600 odd incidents of communal violence in UP being part of a deliberate strategy. He said that these had been engineered but did not identify a party. The SP followed his comments by accusing the BJP of fomenting communal trouble in the state. Political leaders are now openly speaking of violence in these states being directly related to elections.
In Jammu and Kashmir there are communal divisions within the state. Here the BJP has set up a unit in the Kashmir valley. Interestingly divisive issues are being raised consistently, without being pushed to the edge for the moment at least. Article 370, resettlement conclaves for Kashmiri pandits have generated considerable debate along divisive lines.