Results of 4 Lok Sabha and 10 Assembly byolls declared yesterday have come as a jolt to the Bharatiya Janata Party. With less than a year to go before the Lok Sabha polls in 2019, the outcomes in recently-held Lok Sabha bypolls should come as a wake-up call for Amit Shah and co. A united opposition, that has so far managed to galvanize their resources keeping their differences aside with a common goal to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, is a clear and present danger that the BJP leadership needs to reckon with.
Even though the BJP leadership boasts of having party Chief Ministers in 15 states and being part of the government in 5 others, Lok Sabha bypolls held since 2014, should be hurting BJP the most. Here’s what the numbers say.
String of unsuccessful Lok Sabha bypolls
Since PM Modi formed government at the Centre with a resounding mandate, elections have been held in 27 Lok Sabha constituencies. Of these, the saffron party has managed to win a paltry five. The worrying part is that 13 out of these 27 seats were won by BJP in 2014. So, the retention capability of the saffron party has taken a hit. 2018 seems to have brought all the unhapiness to PM Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah.
If we take a look at their performances in Lok Sabha bypolls since 2014, we will find that BJP did not face any disappointment in any seat in 2014. It tasted defeats in Ratlam seat in Madhya Pradesh in 2015 and Gurdaspur seat in Punjab in 2017.
However, 2018 heralded a tough year for BJP in terms of its performance in Lok Sabha bypolls. The party lost three seats in Uttar Pradesh, where it had virtually won everything in 2014 — Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana. It lost two seats in Rajasthan — Ajmer and Alwar. However, it did manage to hold on to Palghar seat in Maharashtra but lost the Bhandara-Gondiya seat to the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Gorakhpur, Phulpur – Where it all began
Fresh from retaining its citadel in Gujarat, BJP was confident that it would sweep Gorakhpur and Phulpur in Uttar Pradesh earlier this when bypolls were held for these two seats after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Deputy CM Kesav Maurya had vacated their seats. Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha bypolls marked an important chapter in Indian politics as traditional rival like Samajwadi Party and Mayawati’s BSP, which faced crushing defeats in the 2017 assembly polls, managed to stitch an alliance. Subsequently, BJP faced stunning defeats and this has now become the most-sought after model for opposition to thwart the Modi juggernaut. What happened in Karnataka is the finest example of the opposition unity. In Kairana, RLD, SP, BSP and Congress managed to replicate the success by joining hands together.
While Lok Sabha bypolls post 2014 have been disappointing for the BJP, the party did manage some smart jobs in assembly polls. While in states like Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Tripura and others the saffron party had formed the government on its own, in Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Sikkim, the BJP had formed an alliance and managed to be in power, somwthing that may prove to be crucial in 2019.
Tough battle ahead
When BJP won the Uttar Pradesh in 2017, many observers thought that it would be very difficult to stop the party as it has the state with 80 Lok Sabha seats in its arsenal. The momentum has shifted and BJP now faces potentially tough battles in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where assembly polls are likely to be held later this year.
BJP’s losses in Lok Sabha bypolls means opposition’s gains. Congress led by a rejuvenated Rahul Gandhi has won four seats where bypolls were held. The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress managed to retain all four seats in West Bengal where bypolls were held. While the Samajwadi Party won two in Kairana, a Rashtriya Lok Dal candidate, backed by other opposition parties, also won. Other regional parties like Kerala’s IUML and Telangana Rashtra Samithi have also managed to hold on to seats despite bypolls.