Nationally, this has led to reconfiguring of the ruling party-opposition space and raised a question on who would lead the opposition in the country. This question is important since a large percentage of the electorate, which doesn’t vote for the BJP, doesn’t seem to be represented by large parties currently.
In 1999, it was only when the NDA was able to break away parties from other groupings and draw them on its side — like the DMK and the TDP from the United Front — that they managed to add momentum to their projects at the Centre. This time, the NCP’s offer of outside support has the potential to provide the BJP with more fuel to consolidate its stay at the top, not just in the state, but nationally.
Congress, says political scientist Zoya Hasan, has been “devastated in two states that they ruled for 10-15 years. They are not even the principal Opposition in these states, and the idea of the opposition is now about much smaller regional groups”. She says that for decades, “anti-Congressism” defined the politics of the opposition; from now on, it will be defined by “anti-BJPism”.
The Congress has lost states dramatically before. It happened in 1967 after Jawaharlal Nehru’s death, when seven states were won by opposition groups and coalition governments did well in several big states, especially in the north. Then in 1977, the Janta wave saw many states go away from the Congress, and then again in the 1990s, as BJP emerged. But even with NDA at the Centre, they ruled in about 14 states at the time.
Now, that number is at an all-time low. Moreover, says Hasan, “With just 44 seats in the Lok Sabha, its a very serious situation for the Congress.”
Big state legislatures being dominated by the BJP would also slowly show up in the Rajya Sabha and augment the BJP’s ability to clear sweeping legislations, completing its control over the Parliament as a whole.
Said Kirit Somaiya, BJP MP, on TV: “A mini-Modi government will take oath in Mumbai.” Breaking away from the idea of a strong federal India, led by state satraps of national and regional parties, the message from these states now seems to be of a more unitary one. Says Dushyant Chautala of the INLD, the principal opposition in Haryana: “We are happy to sit in the Opposition; we were No. 2 last time and we are that now. People have voted, impressed with the Central government. Now, Modi will have to provide lakhs of jobs, complete all projects quickly and build industries faster. We will hold him to that promise.”
So, with the burden of providing the opposition or representation to the opposition in the country falling on smaller parties and the Congress being relegated to the margins, it opens up the possibility of smaller parties being easily manipulated by the Centre. In Maharashtra, with the NCP falling on the ruling party’s side and the Shiv Sena naturally inclined to define itself as a “Hindutva party”, the Congress seems to be isolated.
Says D P Tripathi, NCP spokesman and MP, on the national implications of his party’s move: “The decision has been taken by the party and that is it. Realities of different regions are different. We had been declared as having been wiped out, but we have done better than we did in the Lok Sabha polls and have a role to play now.”
But former Shiv Sena MP and senior analyst Bharat Raut feels regional parties have a role to play: “For the first time after 1978, Maharashtra has witnessed a five-cornered contest, and at least four parties entered as equal contestants. They all fought separately and the BJP hoped it would be able to abolish regional parties everywhere. That plan has failed.”