The fallout of the BJP’s stupendous performance in the general elections has left several state governments in a precarious position. Legislators in parties with a bare majority in state assemblies are gravitating to the BJP. In Congress-ruled states like Maharashtra, Assam, Haryana and Karnataka, the Chief Ministers are on a shaky wicket for not delivering enough MPs to the Congress kitty. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s resignation was little more than a face-saving exercise. Nitish’s failed gambit of severing his 20-year-old alliance with the BJP has left many discontented within his Janata Dal(United). Reports of several MLAs looking to defect to the BJP was the last straw for Nitish after his party’s dismal performance, winning just two seats. But Nitish’s decision to resign and dedicate himself to party work, while requesting JD(U) legislators to choose another leader, has momentarily thrown the dissidents off-balance.
The overwhelming show of support for Nitish at the legislature party meeting has also stalled the BJP’s alleged overtures to “at least” 50 JD(U) legislators. With 116 members in the 243-member Bihar assembly, the JD(U) may need arch-enemy Lalu Prasad Yadav-led RJD to win a trust vote. For Nitish, who rode a massive anti-Lalu mandate to power, the offer of such support is a double-edged sword. Neither the RJD nor the JD(U) will be keen on fresh elections or a BJP government in Patna. But the imperative of allying lies in the triangular contests and the vote-shares garnered by these three parties. The BJP secured 29.4 per cent of the vote easily trumping the JD(U) (15.8 per cent) and the RJD (20.1 per cent). For both Nitish and Lalu, the BJP’s success at consolidating Hindu votes has undermined their social engineering efforts.
While Nitish has eaten into the Muslim segment of Lalu’s Muslim-Yadav social alliance, Lalu’s backward class base and Nitish’s EBC-Mahadalit formula has been splintered by the BJP alliance with Ram Vilas Paswan and Narendra Modi’s promise of jobs and development to Bihar’s poor.
In Uttarakhand, the Harish Rawat government counts on the support of seven outside MLAs in the 70-member house. Even as counting began and the Congress trailed in all five Lok Sabha constituencies, a desperate Rawat took the unprecedented step of appointing all his non-Cabinet MLAs to various boards and government bodies to fend them off the BJP. Rawat had earlier faced dissidence from Sakshi Maharaj who left the Congress for the BJP threatening to carry along some legislators too. In Jharkhand, Hemant Soren appears to have the support of just 42 legislators belonging to an assorted group of parties including independents in the 81-member assembly.
By offering his resignation, Tarun Gogoi, the first and only Congress chief minister to do so, has gamely accepted responsibility for a saffron wave that had its origins in popular anger against the central Congress leadership. In contrast, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has resisted the rising clamour for his resignation. Long accused of slow decision-making and of being an outsider, the lack of credible alternatives may spare Chavan and two other colleagues, Haryana’s Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Karnataka’s Siddaramaiah. With elections slated later this year in Maharashtra and Haryana, losses here would leave the Congress heading governments in just three major states: Karnataka, Kerala and Assam. In the existential crises facing these chief ministers, and their governments, lies the first major challenge that the Opposition parties face against the new BJP dispensation.